The first time we are told to sing a new song unto the Lord is in Psalm 33, but to be honest, I rarely feel like singing. I think I attribute a portion of my reticence to bad genetics, as no one in my family has a good singing voice. In fact, I remember my dad saying we all had good voices for mime. I wonder if that’s why we saw Marcel Marceau perform so many times?
I know a number of musicians and they nearly all say anyone can sing, you just have to train your voice, unlearn bad habits, and take on good ones. That may be true, I don’t know, but when I think back on the times I have tried to sing, well, let’s just say, maybe mime would have been a better choice.
I can only, however, attribute a portion of my unwillingness to sing to genetics and family influence. I think the majority of the time I don’t feel like singing it’s because I struggle to find a reason to. For example, (and I know these examples are quite trivial), but I’ve been bordering on being upset for the past day or so. There aren’t any single huge events causing this but a number of small circumstances all of which seem to be conspiring against me. First of all, I hate traffic and road construction. I know I’m not supposed to hate, but honestly, why can’t people drive more conscientiously and why can’t the state fix the roads with less interruption? People never drive the way I want and the state seems to take pleasure in ruining all travel plans! Secondly, I hate what I perceive as the misuse of power and twisted justice. For instance, why does the soccer team I help coach always seem to be on the short end of poor refereeing? I know referees are people like me just trying to do the best they can, but it always seems like they make major mistakes costing our team dearly. Their decision is final, we have to live with it, and there is no recourse! Thirdly, I think I broke my toe. I should have turned the lights on last night when going to the kitchen but I didn’t want to wake the dogs so I ended up banging my toe against a chair in the dark dining room. Sometimes life just stinks, doesn’t it? It’s crazy how such mundane and trivial things can cause one to lose sleep and happiness, but somehow they do.
But as I look at the inane things making my day bad, I know others have it much worse. Injustice on the soccer field is one thing, but imagine living with injustice every day of your life. Imagine waking up every morning wondering if this is the day you might be judged, dismissed, or abused merely because of your race, religion, or social standing. Sort of makes a broken toe, a bad ref, and horrible traffic patterns seem shallow, don’t they?
I could go on, but the point I’m trying to make is we all have issues squelching our desire to sing, and yet God, through Psalm 33, tells us to sing a new song. We aren’t told to sing because we feel good about things, we are told to sing because of who God is and what he has done for us: he is faithful, right and true (v. 4, 5); he created the universe by his word (v. 6-11); his plans always succeed (v. 9-11); he blesses those who trust him (v. 12-15); he delivers us (v. 16-17); and he watches those who hope in him (v. 18-19). If we only sang when we felt good about things, we might never sing, but we are told to wait on him (v. 20), to trust him (v. 21), and to expect his unfailing love (v. 22) even when everything around us has fallen apart and we no longer can find no joy within our heart.
When I think about all the things that can and have ruined my day, I’m not sure my genetic predisposition or feelings really matter; I don’t think that’s what the psalmist had in mind at all. I think we are told to sing a new song to God in the midst of our pain, frustration, and struggles instead of waiting for the feeling. I could be wrong, (I often am), but I also don’t think scripture guarantees we will be surrounded by a feeling of joy. I think when scripture tells us of the joy of the Lord it speaks more about trust and obedience than about ability and sensations. I think joy is about us allowing our weary soul to rest in the palm of God’s hand even though we have no idea how, or if, God will change our temporal circumstances. I think that’s what singing a new song is about. I think it is about trust.