I just came back from a wonderful weekend at Soul Fest, a three day music festival devoted to faith, love, and action. It is such an amazing (physically tiring but spiritually restful) event, especially for the region I live in. The last act of the festival was Skillet, one of my many favorite bands. Most of the set list was hard rocking, but in the middle of their show, they played an acoustic rendition of the song “Stars.” I’ve loved this song ever since I heard it for the first time, but hearing it live while being outside, under the stars, was an awe-inspiring experience.
If You can hold the stars in place
You can hold my heart the same
Whenever I fall away
Whenever I start to break
So here I am, lifting up my heart
-“Stars” by Skillet
As they played the song, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and lift my arms high in worship of the One who made and holds the stars. I’ve heard it said that the best things in life are unseen, and that that is why we often close our eyes when we laugh, dream, worship, etc. For a moment while Skillet played this tune, this sentiment was indeed very true.
At the same time, however, I think it is equally true that sometimes we need to consciously open our eyes. When I opened mine and looked up, I was looking at the actual stars – a magnificent work of our artistic God. The moment became even more special.
To us, the stars look like pin heads dotting the sky. The dark canvas of the night sky is beautifully interrupted by these tiny specs of light. While they look like tiny dots to us, the stars are in fact gigantic. The smallest known star is approximately 0.12 solar radii or 167,000 km across1.
Perspective is the key. How we see the stars in the sky doesn’t change how massive they truly are.
I can’t help but think that we often see God similarly to how we see the stars. I mean, in our minds, we know that God is bigger and greater than anything we can really fathom. We often make Him too small though. I for one often find myself thinking that my problems and sins are too much for Him to fix; that I’ve screwed up too many times for Him to still be faithful to me. My faith falters and pride takes over. In those moments, my belief in God doesn’t disappear, but it becomes distorted. The darkness overwhelms me. I tend to distance myself and suddenly I’m trying to live life fully on my own strength. I end up seeing Him as a small, far away, unreachable spec in the dark canvas of my life, even though He is the reason for every cell of my being and every breath in my lungs. My perspective doesn’t match reality.
Thankfully, in those moments where faith falters and I stumble and fall, God is faithful beyond comprehension. He doesn’t abandon me even if it sometimes feels like He has.
The deepest depths, the darkest nights
Can’t separate, can’t keep me from Your sight
I get so lost, forget my way
But still You love and You don’t forget my name
-“Stars” by Skillet
When I find myself in the deepest depths, stumbling through the darkest nights, God still sees me. Psalm 139:12 says it perfectly: “even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” Whatever my feelings, whatever my perspective, God sees me. Whatever your feelings, whatever your perspective, God sees you. He made us, He loves us, and He holds us in the palm of His hand just as He holds the stars in the sky. God is bigger and greater than we can ever fully imagine or fathom while in these mortal shells. He is bigger than every fear, doubt, sickness, tragedy, problem, and sin. That is the glorious reality, no matter what we feel or see with our finite, sometimes distorted perspectives.
If You can calm the raging sea
You can calm the storm in me
You’re never too far away
You never show up too late
So here I am, lifting up my heart
To the one who holds the stars
We all search for something throughout our lives. We all search for what our role is in the world and whether we matter. We all search for an identity that we can feel good about and cling to. We all search for who we are.
And this search can feel endless and hopeless at times. Sometimes in the search we feel lost, as though we somehow strayed from the marked trail in the woods or ended up stranded on a ship lost at sea.
I’ve been there a lot lately. After graduating college, I felt like I had lost a big part of who I was up to that point: a good, studious student. I also quit performing music, something that had been a part of my life since I was 3. I was working a job, but that job was not my dream job. I didn’t (and still don’t) know what my ultimate career goal is. I felt (and sometimes still do feel) like I was floating in space with no path to follow. My general anxiety about everything and some issues at work only heightened the feelings of desperation in my soul. I felt useless. I felt like a burden. I felt like I had no discernible direction. I felt like a mistake.
We all face these feelings at one time or another. When we do, it’s tempting to drown these feelings out in whatever way we can. So we distract ourselves with entertainment, keep ourselves busy with work, and perhaps turn to a drug or drink to calm the ever nagging longing in the pit of our soul. We let our job titles, personal achievements, money, and experiences, good or bad, fully define who we are. Nowadays, we also carefully construct an image and identity for others to see on social media.
The hard truth is though, on our own, we’ll never find a full, meaningful identity that lasts. The identities we build with our careers and social media profiles are walls that will eventually crumble and fall to the ground.
This brings me to the song “Be Somebody” by Thousand Foot Krutch. It’s one of my favorite songs to sing along to in the car as I drive to work, especially when the frustrations and personal failures at work are weighing me down. It’s both a reminder of an amazing truth and a prayer.
I feel a million miles away
Still You connect me in your way
And You create in me
Something I would’ve never seen
When I could only see the floor
You made my window a door
So when they say they don’t believe
I hope that they see You in me
After all the lights go down
I’m just the words You are the sound
A strange type of chemistry
How You’ve become a part of me
And when I sit alone at night
Your thoughts burn through me like a fire
You’re the only one who knows
Who I really am.
“Be Somebody” – Thousand Foot Krutch
Sometimes I feel lost and far away from the God who created me. You probably have felt the same. But that doesn’t take away from the awesome (though often hard-to-believe) truth that God is ever-present and always creating. It also doesn’t take away from the fact that a child of God is His child forever.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…
Throughout our lives as His children on earth, the enemy will use everything in his arsenal to make us stumble and fall. And we will fall. These battles don’t take away from the fact that throughout our lives in these mortal shells, God is sanctifying us and creating new things within us. He is creating who He made us to be. His plans, purposes, and perspectives are so much higher and so much more complex than ours. When all we see is hopeless situations and desperation, He sees all things restored and new. He is creating something in us that we would’ve never seen or even imagined in our wildest dreams.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55: 8-9)
God knows who we are. He knows every fiber of our being. He knows our likes, skills, talents, struggles, pains, sorrows, failures, guilt, and sin – yet loves us still. The proof was on a hill in Calvary. Since He loves us, we ought to live like we are His. If you tell your spouse or parent or friend that you love them, but never spend time with them or do anything to show your love, your words will sound hollow to the recipient. Perhaps it isn’t love at all. That’s where the prayer comes in this song:
So when they say they don’t believe
I hope that they see You in me
-“Be Somebody” – Thousand Foot Krutch
Let that be our prayer everyday – that God would continue to work in us, on us, and through us and that He would use us to show this dying, desperate world around us who He is. Let our identities rest in Him and what He is creating.
I had to get outside today. The anxiety in my mind and heart was overwhelming. I needed to walk. I needed to pray. I needed a little perspective. I needed some music from one of my favorite bands.
It was a cold and blustery day here in MASS today. It was so cold and windy I almost turned back to go to the warm office to make some hot tea instead. But the whole reason I was outside was to escape the office and to-do list for a few moments. So I trudged along the icy paths with one ear bud in and a playlist of favorite songs playing. Somewhat ironically, the wind gusts attempted to steal my breath away on numerous occasions and it got me thinking. One can’t live long without breathing. Similarly, we can’t live long without hope. A little hope can go a long way, but it is as necessary for our souls as oxygen is for our body. Without hope, what’s the point of doing anything? What is the point of working hard, striving, and living? The problem is, we often put hope in the wrong things: money, success, relationships, careers, reputations, etc. These things aren’t inherently bad. In fact, they are good things. It’s easy for them to become idols though, and that’s when they become hurtful things. These things weren’t meant to bare the weight of life in this world alone. Indeed, they cannot bare it.
My lungs and I were born to fight
Sometimes I’m not sure what I’m fighting for
But death ain’t the only end in sight
‘Cause this ain’t a battle, it’s a lifelong war
-Switchfoot (“Hope is the Anthem”)
I tend to put my hope in good things that ultimately will fade away, and that is the root cause of so much of my anxiety. God has had to remind me time and time again that my hope should not be in me or anything that I can do on my own. My hope should not be in other people or their perceptions of me. My hope needs to be in something so much bigger than me and all the responsibilities of everyday life. My hope needs to be in Him.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…
(1 Peter 1:3)
The hope that God alone gives is living and it is eternal. This hope will not put us to shame (Romans 5:5). This hope gives strength. This hope overcomes and survives through bitter adversity and seemingly hopeless situations. This hope cannot be destroyed by any weapon in the enemy’s arsenal. This hope is resilient. This hope can flourish even in desperate situations.
With this in mind, I can keep living and living it well. And so can you. As my favorite band so aptly says: Hope is the Anthem.
Hope is the anthem of my soul because it is stronger than my anxiety. Hope is the anthem of my soul because it gives me strength to carry on. Hope is the anthem of my soul because it allows me to serve and offer temporal hope to a hurting world all while pointing to the only Eternal Hope. Hope is the anthem of my soul because God has given me hope even though doubt, anxiety and shame often seek to drown me. Hope is the anthem of my soul because God loves me and has promised to never leave me. Hope is the anthem of my soul because God gave my soul this song to sing. Hope is the anthem of my soul, and may my soul sing it all my life long.