Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda. Proverbs 25:20
Morning commute. Rote route.
Unbelief that I am still in this God-awful situation.
And suddenly the dismal mood is bombarded by the intense energy of a happy song. And “clapping along will not proceed because happiness is not my truth” at this moment in time.
Of all the songwriting talent in the world, it does seem crazy that a song relentlessly repeating “Because I’m happy” could earn millions of dollars. But aside from that, swatting the audio button quickly remedies the disruption.
Turning off a “happy” song when you are not happy is an easy fix to the dilemma of Proverbs 25:20. But other “happy songs,” ones from well-meaning Christian friends are harder to control. Proverbs dispenses much instruction on “friends.” One attribute of a good friend is the ability to exercise tact. And if wisdom likewise instructs us, it is tactfully impossible to turn a person off as easily as a radio.
Wisdom vividly illustrates the inappropriateness of singing songs to a sad heart by using two comparisons. First, it is like taking off a garment on a cold day which only makes the chill chillier.
Second, singing songs to a sorrowful heart is like pouring vinegar on soda. This chemical reactive combo manifests as a violent effervescence and release of carbon dioxide. Think “plop plop fizz fizz”—the old Alka-Seltzer commercial—on steroids.
Undressing on a cold day, vinegar on soda, visualizations of counter-productivity, incompatibility, i.e. they don’t go together. Both highlight that irresponsible attempts to cheer people up only makes matters worse.
How many times have you had “songs” sung to a heavy heart? You know the Christian friends who try to put a spiritual spin on “the unfulfilling job.” Some top hits are:
- “You should be grateful you have a job”
- “God must have you here for a reason”
- “You need to trust God”
- “God must be trying to teach you something”
- “It is just not your time”
When I hear these comments, I want to crawl under the covers. The Harps on Willows namesake, Psalm 137, expresses this feeling well:
For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” HOW shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land? Psalm 137:3-4
The songs of Zion were difficult to muster with the heavy heart of being in captivity. In a place they did not belong. Unfortunately, some of our own Christian friends are unable to empathize with another person being in a place they do not belong.
Babylonians weren’t that into “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Apparently, Babylonians will always be among us.
Which brings me to the teaching of Proverbs on being a friend. Most likely the vinegar/soda comments, the “top hits” list, do not come from a heart intent on making us feel worse, but most likely they are said out of a sense of trying to help.
Earthly friends can’t always put themselves in our place. They can’t suffer with us. Don’t be disappointed over the crass statements and rote “Christianized” phrases that are sure to come—plop plop fizz fizz— if you share your personal job disappointment with another human.
Proverbs says there “is a friend who is closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Jesus magnifies this image of a friend when he describes His relationship with us:
Greater love has no one than this that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:13-15)
Jesus is a true friend who understands and who loves unconditionally. Tell this friend about your sadness and despair, about your unfulfilling job.
Jesus listens. Jesus cares. Jesus understands. Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Greater love has no one than this friend who suffers with us and has indeed, already suffered for us.
Whatever it is, “have a little talk with Jesus, tell Him all about your troubles,” as the old hymn says.
He will put a new song in your mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see all that God has done for you [and the amazing new job that He has given you—the job doing what you were born to do!] and [they will] fear God, and put their trust in the LORD. (Psalm 40:3)
That’s a truly happy song.
Jesus, I am so grateful that You are my friend. Thank you that I have a high priest who is able to sympathize with my weaknesses. With confidence I draw near to the throne of grace, to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Oh Jesus, You made it all possible. Thank You. In Your Name I lift this prayer to the Father, Amen.