She told her story in a quiet voice. We heard her tell of her hardships only because the microphone perched inches from her face. She shared bravely and likened her years in the dark valley to those of Israel’s after they had been captured by the Babylonians. Then she shared these words from Psalm 137:
By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remembered Zion.
We hung our harps
Upon the willows in the midst of it.
The Israelites were so heartbroken, so dismayed, so hopeless, that they could no longer make music. They hung their harps up on the willow trees. Too forlorn to play.
Can you walk with me down the river? Can you see them? Harps suspended from the willow trees all down the river bank. A people sitting silent in the deepest soul suffering.
Have you been there? Adrift. Lost. Hopeless. Heartsick. Despondent.
I walked through a period in my life when I wouldn’t turn on my radio for fear of hearing music. I was suffering such sadness that I couldn’t bear to hear a song playing in the car on my drive to work. In that dark season, when your harps are hung up, it feels like forever. You start to believe that you will never be able to experience music or laughter or joy again. That the season is a period, instead of a comma.
There is such hope offered. Light out of the darkness. Those sad willow trees with the harps hung upon it are not the trees we are destined to sit against. Oh, No. Jeremiah 17 promises another tree, full of life, that blossoms despite the hardships:
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
And what of your music? It will return. You will be released and play again. He is faithful.
My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. (Psalm 57)
I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—I whom you have delivered. (Psalm 71)
Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Begin the music, strike the timbrel, play the melodious harp and lyre. (Psalm 81)
Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King! Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp. For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory. (Psalm 149)