You're Never Gonna Let Me Down
I grew up in a church where we sang hymns and one of my favorite was written by Horatio Spafford after he lost much of his fortune in the Great Fire of Chicago, his young son died of scarlet fever and his four little girls Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta drowned at sea in a shipwreck. Horatio wrote:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
The very real truth behind those lyrics is that, no matter how hard life may be, I can trust God because He is good, all the time. Nowadays we sing a different type of worship song at church. We sang this little ditty today:
You are good, good, oh-ohh. You are good, good, oh-ohh. You are good, good, oh-ohh. You are good, good, oh-ohh. You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down. You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down. You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down. You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down. You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down. You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down. You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down. You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down. (Repeat 3X)
Perhaps I could argue that the richness and theology of our worship music has lost its depth in our Twitterized culture. But I actually like this song. Especially the first part, about God being good. God tells us in His Word that, no matter how difficult life’s circumstances become, He is a good God. “For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5). Nahum 1:7 reminds us that “the LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him.” When life is hard and the nights are long, I can find my way if I remember what I know to be true: God is good and He loves me.
We can absolutely trust in the goodness of God. It is a promise I have held tight to over these difficult years. We can put our faith in Him, that even when heart-crushing sorrows come rolling in wave after wave after wave, He is still good. I like singing about the goodness of God because it reminds me of critical truth.
But then this song goes on to say that God is “never gonna never let me down.” As if somehow God’s goodness is tied to whether or not I feel let down. I don’t know about you, but I have felt let down by God over and over and over again. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve felt let down by God! I prayed for Amy’s healing 10,000 times with no response. How could I not feel let down?
I don’t think I’m alone in this.
I’m pretty sure that Job felt let down by God when a gang of Sabeans stole his oxen and donkeys, lightning killed his sheep, three gangs of Chaldeans stole his camels, most of his servants were murdered, and a microburst killed all of his children. Doesn’t cursing the day of his birth (Job 3:1) at least insinuate that he feels let down by God?
Joseph most likely felt let down by God when his brothers sold him into slavery for eight ounces of silver. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that he felt let down again when he got thrown into prison for resisting sexual advances from a perverse woman.
Jesus’ disciples must have felt let down as they were murdered one-by-one. Andrew was scourged, and then tied rather than nailed to a cross, so that he would suffer for a longer time before dying. Philip, Simon and Thaddaeus were crucified the old-fashioned way. Peter was crucified upside down. James was beheaded. Thomas was run through with a spear. Matthew was stabbed in the back. James was beaten and stoned then killed after being hit in the head with a club. Historians aren’t quite sure if Bartholomew was beaten then crucified or skinned alive and then beheaded, but either way, I would imagine he would have felt at least a twinge of being let down by God.
When King David learned that his rebellious young son Absalom was dead, he went up to the room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.”
At one point in Moses’ life he prayed that if God really loved him then God would kill him as a show of compassion (Numbers 11:15). Naomi followed her husband to a foreign land and lost everything she held dear. Though her name meant pleasant, she asked her friends to call her Mara which meant bitter. Jeremiah was known as the Weeping Prophet because he cried and grieved for his people who ignored His message.
It seems apparent that even Jesus Himself, while suffocating to death as He was nailed to a cross, felt let down by God as He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”
Because of the Fall, pain and disappointment and heartbreak are a very real part of life. Jesus never promised we wouldn’t feel let down by God, He promised that in this world we would have trouble (John 16:33). Trouble hurts and the pain is real. To quote the Man in Black from The Princess Bride, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
So how did we end up with the lyrics, “You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down” in a worship song?
Because it’s true. God won’t let me down.
If God is perfect in all of His ways (Psalm 18:30), if He is faithful to keep His covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him (Deuteronomy 7:9), if He is good and His love endures forever (Psalm 107:1) then I can trust that He’s never gonna actually let me down, even though it may feel like it.
There is a difference between feeling let down by God and actually being let down by God. God had a purpose through the very real pain that Job, Joseph, Andrew, Philip, Simon, Thaddaeus, Peter, James, Thomas, Matthew, James, Bartholomew, David, Moses, Naomi, Jeremiah and Jesus endured. And He didn’t drop the ball with you, either.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul talks explains how he was frequently thrown into prison, severely flogged, exposed to death again and again, received the forty lashes minus one five times, beaten with rods three times, pelted with stones, shipwrecked three times, spent a night and a day in the open sea, was constantly on the move, in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits and others in the city, country and at sea, experienced hunger and thirst and sleeplessness, and experienced tremendous stress. Being a human, Paul did not enjoy or hope for any of these painful and sucky experiences. Yet he goes on to say that, for “Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Paul sees a greater, higher purpose in life than experiencing pleasant circumstances and avoiding pain. He may feel let down as he is being flogged within an inch of his life. But because His eyes are fixed on Jesus, Paul is able to rise above, trusting that God is still perfect, on His throne, in charge, and still good. So when Paul felt let down, He prayerfully adjusted his perspective to fit with God’s.
When one of my children disobeys and I must punish them, they feel let down. They don’t like the punishment—it hurts and it is unpleasant. Actually, no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11) In reality, I didn’t actually let my children down by punishing them. But in fact, I did what’s very best for them, because I love them. In time, I hope, they will understand that my ways and thoughts are higher than theirs.
My concern is that God’s people will sing, “You’re never gonna let me down” and then when they are diagnosed with cancer, lose their job, or experience death they will get mad at God, thinking He has somehow broken His promise and let them down. But when we learn that God is truly good and always worthy of our trust, we learn the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12).
So the next time sorrows like sea billows roll and you feel like God has let you down, remember He really is good, good, oh-ohh.