There is a song that has been popular in christian music for a while that has bothered me every time I hear it. It is catchy, emotional and engaging at first listen. The first verse and chorus are as follows:
God loves a lullaby
In a mother’s tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes
God loves the drunkard’s cry
The soldier’s plea not to let him die
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes
We pour out our miseries
God just hears a melody
Beautiful, the mess we are
The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah
For the first few months whenever it would start playing on the radio, my spirit would say, “How do you know?” (We leave KLOVE radio playing all day at my work.) I am not typically a cynical person, nor do I often find the negative in situations, but for some reason when people try to state what God values and thinks apart from what Scripture says, I can become quite analytical.
If the song had a profound message of us truly turning to God and relying on Him for strength in the midst of our troubles and sorrows, and directly compared that to a false rejoicing, then we can find truth here. Almost. But the fact of the matter is that God finds no pleasure in a false “hallelujah”. If I set out to make my own way in life and whenever I attain my own goal apart from Him and His help, and then say “Praise God!”, He and I both know that to be insincere and fake. And God takes no pleasure in it whatsoever. So my dependence on Him would be a good thing, and my self sufficiency a bad thing. Not both good, and comparable.
But as the song played on yesterday, what truly grabbed my attention is the sick and ungodly perspective on which this song is written. God most certainly does not hear a melody when we cry out in despair. He takes no pleasure in our suffering.
The example of God’s heart towards His people throughout the Old Testament is that of a disciplining, holy and just God. His heart was broken when His people rebelled and He gave them over to suffering and bondage as discipline, judgment and to refine their faith. He did not give them over to suffering because He enjoyed hearing their cries.
“‘As I live!’ declares the Lord God, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’”
– Ez 33.11
We even know from the Psalms that God takes note of our heartache and keeps our tears in a bottle, as it were:
“You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?”
– Ps 56.8
Jesus wept at Lazarus’ tomb (John 11.32-36), and not because Lazarus had died but because his heart was broken for his friends and others who were grieving Lazarus and doubting Him. Jesus also wept over Jerusalem for their lack of faith and for the trouble that would come against them because of it (Luke 19.43-43).
God is not sadistic. He does not inflict pain on us for His pleasure. Nor does He take pleasure in our tears when we turn to Him in the midst of pain. Yes, He does want us to turn to Him. Yes, He does want us to cast all our cares upon Him (Ps 55.22). Yes, He will sustain us through the trials and calls us to suffer as Christ suffered (Is 40.31, 2 Tim 3.12). And yes, many of us will come to faith at a point of crisis in our lives when we have no where else to turn! But a cry for mercy is not Biblically definably more sweet to His ears than praise. Rather, we can expect that He weeps when we weep (with Him) and that He rejoices when we rejoice (in Him) – as He commands us to do towards our brothers (Rom 12.15).
We can be confident of this because of redemption’s story. God is actively working out our sanctification. He is causing all things to work together for good for those who love Him (Rom 8.28). So while it is true that we see that it pleased God to put Jesus to death (Is 53.10), we know that this is the case because God established the perfect standard to which we all must adhere to please Him – and also the perfect sacrifice to satiate His wrath for our inability to keep that perfect standard and to offer us salvation. God delights in good. In Him there is no darkness. And He is causing all things to culminate in eternal life where there will no tears. There are times that God will allow and cause things in our lives that will test us, like Job. But all, and only, to His perfect end and our sanctification. Not for suffering’s sake.
If His end goal is a life without suffering and a life without tears, we indubitably know that He prefers a Hallelujah to tears.
He will swallow up death for all time,
And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces,
And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken.
And it will be said in that day,
“Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.”
– Is 25.8-9
Have you ever in your life studied or memorized a catechism? Westminster Catechism is perhaps the most well known and most memorized today and begins with the same question as most:
Q. 1. What is the chief and highest end of man?
A. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.
It has been Biblically and traditionally understood that God created us for relationship, and it is our chief end to enjoy Him forever. Let’s not over spiritualize this. Let’s turn to God in good times and bad, and let’s trust His sovereign plan over our sorrows and joys. Let us never be so audacious as to claim what God prefers extra-biblically. Let us be confident that He has our best interest at heart and He will faithfully see us through to salvation, and let us be confident that He hears our prayers, He carries our burden, and He is our strength and our fortress.
Enjoy Him forever!