There had been a horrific shooting in a nearby city just before I arrived. The details were still hazy – frightening talk of a gunman executing innocents at random – but what was beyond all doubt was the fact that it had shaken people up. It had left them at the intersection of fear, doubt and sorrow. Just walking down the street was enough to know that people had been shaken to their very foundations.
When you write songs that people sing as part of their worship to God, there is a bit of your soul that shares the aches of those around you. When there is tragedy, the song of lament wakes up with you, and when there is joy, the sound of praise fills your ears. To some it might seem odd to reach for a guitar when tears are falling on scuffed up shoes, but I really don’t know any other way of being.
And so, as the city closed in, I met with some friends. We shared in the sense of shock, felt some of the pain and fear and listened as melody and words began to rise.
When darkness seems to hide His face
In every high and stormy gale
Through the storm
My anchor holds
I guess a lot of people have been thinking deeply about life over recent years. At times it has felt as though crises have been piling up along the freeway; we barely have time to recover from a crash in the markets when the analysts declare another country’s economy to be in critical condition. We only just have the time to forget the face of the gunman when another chorus of sirens wail. We have barely cleaned up after the flood when an earthquake strikes.
When the earth shakes, we look to our feet and wonder what it is that we are standing on. Can we trust it? Is it strong enough to carry us? Will we be safe enough here?
When things start to fall apart, we wonder whether what we have built our life upon is capable of sustaining us.
Maybe you know this, maybe you don’t, but the truth about life is that there is only one thing strong enough to hold us. With all the storms and struggles that we face, with the threats and fears that stack up, there is only one thing in which we can put our trust. When we are pushed to our limit – even to the point of death itself – there is only one source of hope, there is only one cornerstone:
Christ alone, Cornerstone
Weak made strong in the Savior’s love
Through the storm
He is Lord Lord of all
I think it was Keith Richards who said that writing songs is easy; all you have to do is reach out and pluck the melodies from the air. I don’t know if I totally agree, but I do know that worship songs are at their best when they reach for the truth about Jesus. Truth is better than clever, better than new, better than fresh. Truth is eternal, everything else fades away.
So our song, Cornerstone, found legs and lungs and life in the lives of those who sung it. At times we sing it because we know it to be true – we have sensed the ground shake, we have felt the storms lash our backs – and our faith has held strong. We have not doubted or waivered and we sing with a smile of ‘weak made strong in the father’s love’ and how the ‘anchor holds’.
But there are times when we are less sure as well. Times when we sing not so much out of absolute conviction but hopeful aspiration. At times like these, when we are more aware of our weakness than our strength, when the storms are present not past, it is OK to sing out of hope rather than certainty. Why? Because as Hebrews 11 reminds us, ‘faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see’ – even when that unseen hope is the ability to trust in God himself.
We followers of Jesus have such potential. We have such a story ahead of us that I think we would weep to even glimpse it; all those storms, all those struggles, all those trials, and yet beneath them all the sure, steadfast love of God.
If we can know and trust this cornerstone a little better, can you imagine what God might be able to build upon it?