More than once people have asked what my issue is with what has been called a beautiful ballad in many music circles. In simplest terms, I feel it's a trite response to real human suffering. I'm sure I haven't been the only person stuck in spiritual quick sand anticipating suffocation only to run into a well-meaning individual who wanted to play this song in hopes that I'd find comfort and the faith to believe God's Word. My actual reaction was to seriously consider slitting my wrists. I was praying to survive--for "comfort" or "for Your mighty hand to ease [my] suffering"--but I needed to know that God loves me "way too much to give [me] lesser things"?
That's a strange way to encourage an individual to "have faith to believe." And I guess I feel like those lyrics do little to outline where one goes from this point: we suffer; we believe; we understand it will be better when we die. In the darkest days of my depressive fog, that continual message would have been enough to convince me I'd gotten out of my bed for the last time.
There's also something about the perspective of the song that makes me feel like an outsider for struggling to understand why God allows such deep suffering on the part of some individuals, or why He often chooses to be silent. The last lines of the song ("What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life/ Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy/ What if trials of this life/ The rain, the storms, the hardest nights/ Are your mercies in disguise"), while not necessarily untrue, make me feel as though I'm being chastised by someone outside the suffering circle for not immediately recognizing the situation as one that is clearly meant to bring glory to God. Frankly, I don't feel like the speaker of this song is in the trenches. I feel like she's on the other side of the fence telling me to believe God's plan without understanding that's the very thing I'm (and others) are clawing to hold onto--belief. (And it's a little simplistic anyway, isn't it? "And long that we'd have faith to believe"--believe what, exactly? The promises in His word? In my case, believing those promises wasn't the issue. Reconciling myself to the possibility of a different plan--one that didn't eliminate my desire or respond to it--was a bigger issue than believing God's promises.)
Maybe it's too much to ask for all song writers to sit in the ditch of lamentation and lay it out honestly the way Rich Mullins did with "Hard to Get." I guess I just feel like it's my responsibility as a Christian to get real with you about suffering in the midst of belief--that it's not always about a lack of faith or a foundering belief system. Sometimes we struggle because we believe. Sometimes we hurt because we can't see the final picture even though we know there is one. My problem isn't that I can't see suffering as God's "mercies in disguise"; it's that I know God and want to follow Him, but sometimes I have to acknowledge the reality that some things are just His "ways and [He is] just plain hard to get."