Through The Darkness
By Anthony Casperson
The band began to play. Rhythm flowed quickly. Cheerfully, the key rang out. You could tell that this song wanted you to be happy. I wasn’t surprised. It’s not that uncommon to hear such songs in gathered worship services.
Listening to the lyrics as we sang along, the theme of the song was the beauty of God. Our great God is so amazingly glorious in his beauty that we just have to worship him. We marvel at his splendor. We’re awed by him.
Did you know that the art of a song is not just in the rhythmic poetry of the lyrics, but also the choice of things like its key and tempo? Even the places where things change in the song, like which instruments come to the fore and how loud or soft the song is at any given moment, it all makes a difference to the art of the song.
These parts of the song are just as much an aspect of the theme as the lyrics. They reveal to us how those playing the song want us to apply the words being sung.
In the case of this song of praise to God that I sang along with a few weeks ago, what the song leader was trying to showcase is that the beauty of God should make us happy, which in turn helps us worship him. That thought isn’t unique to the song leader. The person who wrote the song leaned in this direction originally. And even many Christian scholars would agree to the verity, the truthfulness, of this theological perspective.
While I don’t disagree that the beauty of God should lead us to worship him, nor do I disagree that the splendor of his glory can make us happy, what I do question is the implication that worshiping God through his magnificence is automatically entwined with being happy.
I had this thought while singing along, not because this particular song combined happiness with God’s beauty and worshiping him. There are plenty of songs that do this. Rather, it was because I couldn’t think of a single song of praise to God where his beauty didn’t automatically lean toward happiness. (Admittedly, I don’t know every song of praise to God ever written. So, my experience might skew the truth.)
I began thinking about God’s beauty in the midst of the depths. In the darkness, it can be difficult to see beauty that’s truly there. The exquisiteness of a person or object masked by shadow reduces the chances of our ability to perceive the beauty present before us.
But the beauty of God radiates his glory in such a way that his beauty pierces through the darkness.
This thought caused me to nearly fall to my knees as God’s beauty called me to worship, not because of happiness, but because of the depths. How amazing is the beauty of One that even darkness can’t contain it? How wondrous the life-giving glory that pierces even the darkness seeking our destruction?
Beauty in the light of day can put a smile on our faces, but beauty seen in the depths of darkness reveals the extent of its magnificence even more. That marvelous splendor that pierces through the darkness is above and beyond the beauty that can be seen only when things are going well and we’re happy.
My point isn’t to diminish our happiness when God’s beauty reveals itself to us in the good times. Rather, it’s to point out exactly how wondrous he is because his beauty knows no bounds. No place is beyond the reach of God’s beauty. No place too dark. No place too far. No place too deep.
Part of me wishes that I were a more skilled songwriter so that I could write a song that calls us to worship God because of his beauty, but portrays the reach of it beyond happiness, through the darkness. But the truth is that words of prose can showcase his glorious nature as well.
And so, I write these words to remind us that no matter where we find ourselves, basking in the radiance of the sun, or drowning in the depths of darkness, God’s beauty can find us.
And that should cause us to worship him.