When the darkness closes in, still I will say...

We arrived at the Asia's Hope church in Doi Saket, Thailand a few minutes late this Sunday. The service had already started. As we entered the back of the building, I heard the children and staff from our 7 local children's homes -- along with neighbors, friends and other organizations' kids -- singing in Thai one of my favorite worship songs...

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

This song has been both a comfort and challenge over the last few years. The lyrics of the bridge, taken from the book of Job, have followed me through the hardest of times: a dear friend's divorce, the loss of another friend to cancer, the dissolution of a once-firm friendship, financial difficulties, chaos at work...

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord blessed be Your name

I've asked myself more than a few times, "Does God really take away? Does he kill spouses? Does he doom businesses and friendships?" Jesus says that Satan the thief steals but he has come to give abundant life. Even Job admits that he has "spoken of things [he] didn't understand" (Job 42:3). 

I'm not sure. 

I find it deeply unsettling to think of God -- the father lights and giver of every good gift -- as a taker. Nevertheless, I was moved to the brink of tears to hear these words sung with so much gusto by children who have endured great suffering, profound darkness and life-shattering loss...

Every blessing You pour out 
I'll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say "blessed be the name of the Lord"

All of the kids at Asia's Hope know what it's like to have "the darkness close in." Many of them have seen their parents die in accidents, of sickness, at the hands of criminals, from alcohol and drug abuse. They have been abused, exploited, abandoned, neglected. They've been homeless and hopeless. and have faced hardships and responsibilities the weight of which I can hardly imagine...

And blessed be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

Our staff also know the searing pain of injustice, death and deprivation: some are widows, others were themselves orphans, refugees, child soldiers, despised minorities...

Blessed be Your name
In the land that is plentiful 
Where your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

It's a privilege to call the staff and kids at Asia's Hope "family." Their dignity, humility, love, talent and perseverence is an inspiration. I pray that as I mature I'll become more like them, and that I will have the faith to face suffering and death with even a fraction of the grace they exhibit on a daily basis.

John McCollumComment