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A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Is it time to dance?

There’s a praise song called I Could Sing of Your Love Forever, and it's probably familiar to many if not most Evangelical Christians. Here are the lyrics:

Over the mountains and the sea
Your river runs with love for me
And I will open up my heart
And let the Healer set me free
I'm happy to be in the truth
And I will daily lift my hands
For I will always sing
Of when Your love came down

I could sing of Your love forever
I could sing of Your love forever

Over the mountains and the sea
Your river runs with love for me
And I will open up my heart
And let the Healer set me free

I'm happy to be in the truth
And I will daily lift my hands
For I will always sing
Of when Your love came down

Oh, I feel like dancing
It's foolishness I know
But when the world has seen the
They will dance with joy
Like we're dancing now

Gratitude does lead to a good feeling, but that isn’t necessarily why someone could sing of the Father’s love forever. One can sing as an expression and as an offering but not necessarily while feeling happy or feeling like dancing. When something traumatic happens, the natural (and appropriate) human reaction is to feel terrible. Feeling terrible does not bring about happiness or dancing, usually. But can someone feel terrible while at the same time being able to sing, honestly, of the Father’s love forever? Of course!

Grief and anger and other “low” human feelings should not prevent us from worshiping. But must we always manufacture a feeling of happiness in order to worship? Of course not!

It can’t be appropriate to sing a song like this during corporate worship. Does it not create a sort of peer pressure to display “happy” emotion? Worshipers should certainly be free to dance, shout, or clap their hands during a worship service if they feel like it, but must we sing of our personal feelings, or of someone else’s? Should worshipers be put in a position of having to sing something they’re not feeling?

The joy we know and experience as a result of our relationship with God is not always a feeling. Joy is a natural response to knowing that God loves me and is in control no matter what happens. Joy is knowing that my destiny is in His hands, regardless of any feelings I may have regarding events or circumstances of my life at any particular moment. Of course joy can lead to happiness, but it doesn’t need to.

I realize I’m not saying anything new, but I wonder how many Christians really know the difference between feelings and true worship. We are to worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24) Not in emotion. Psalm 100 reads,

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who hath made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful unto Him and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
And His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

Now that brings out an exultant response within me, because the focus is entirely upon God and not upon someone else or upon their (or my) feelings. Even if I’m really feeling bad, I can still sing this Psalm and rejoice in its truth.

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven –
A time to give birth, and a time to die.
A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill, and a time to heal.
A time to tear down, and a time to build up.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.

A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search, and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away [I need work on this one :o ]
A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8


  • It's funny that song irks you--it irks me, too, for myriad reasons. One of my beefs with it is the line, "When the world has seen the light/They will dance with joy like we're dancing now." ??? What?

    A) The "world," per se, will never "see the light" other than when they see Jesus returning, and if they are part of the world rather than the Church, let me tell you...they won't be dancing. The Bible says they will be crying out for the mountains to fall on them to hide them from His Wrath. So let's not sugarcoat things!

    B) This song is SLOW. NO ONE is EVER dancing at this or any other part of the song.

    I'll stop there. ;)

    By Blogger Kristen, at 5:32 PM  

  • LOL Kristen, I hear ya :-)

    Actually, the praise band at our church tries to make it "dancy" with the drums, etc., but it doesn't really work...

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 9:08 PM  

  • When we sat down to plan our daughter's funeral / graveside service, this song came to mind. Over the mountains and the sea...He knew we were hurting. Nothing is hidden from Him. And even in my grief I can sing of His love, because He is sovereign. There are lots of older songs or choruses that indicate the singer's love for God, but I never feel pressure to act in a certain way because of the lyrics. It's not about who's beside me and what they're doing.
    This song will always be hard for me to listen to, but I know it's no coincidence that we chose to play it at the service.

    By Blogger Jennifer, at 10:43 PM  

  • Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for reading, and commenting :-)

    Your use of this song in your daughter's service and its significance for you are entirely appropriate. The song has deep personal meaning for you.

    This doesn't mean, however, that it may have deep personal meaning for everyone, which is why I object to its use in general corporate worship. As I said in the post, in times of grief, a person of faith may not actually be happy to be in the Truth, nor, especially, feel like dancing. It's the personal nature of the song that I object to.

    But for one's personal use, either individually or at a memorial service, it certainly has a place.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 2:31 PM  

  • Bonnie,
    I think it depends on what kind of worship experience your looking for. My church, Southern Baptist, would never play this. It's just too loose and uncomfortable for the majority of the congregation. However, my home church does use this song, and they play it well. It's upbeat, very encouraging, and it's played by talented musicians (which helps, A LOT! :-)
    It's not my favorite praise song, but I do enjoy it, and I really see nothing wrong with using it during corporate worship.
    We'll just agree to disagree.

    By Blogger Jennifer, at 9:25 PM  

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