Over the years, I’ve heard songwriters and/or musicians say things to the effect of, “I wish I wrote that song.” And actually, I’m sure I’ve said that at some point – but this one, I’m glad was penned by my friend Bruce. I remember when I first heard it. It was shortly after my wife and I walked through a tragic time in our lives. It was one of those times where it felt as if the world was crashing down, and nothing felt safe. Bruce and his wife Lois were trusted friends who walked through that time with us. We were left with many questions and very few answers, and through that messy time I heard this song that Bruce wrote, and it gave words to things I wanted to say but didn’t know how. Bruce is a worship leader with whom I’ve been friends with for years. I’ve worshipped with him on worship teams, and he was a part of my collective project “Called As Friends” in 2010. He’s worked as a teacher on the Fort Apache Reservation for years, and in my nomadic early twenties I stayed at his family’s house many times. 🙂
I came to the realization that “What A Friend” has become a part of my own personal liturgy when my family had recently gone through a difficult time. This song popped back into my head, once again resonating in my heart. Again, it gave words to the prayer that I wanted to pray, and because of that, I decided that I wanted to introduce it to the church where I serve.
Authentic in trial: Lament
I’ve led worship for over 25 years, and with all the fads that have come and gone in Christian music (and specifically the congregational music), lament has never really felt all that natural in the corporate setting. With that said, there have been some good ‘lamenting’ songs over the years, but the tendency has often been to sing what we think we should say and not what we feel. But the shocking thing is, God invites us to come as we are – broken, rough around the edges, messy, as we reach out to Him with all we’ve got. I like what Michael Card wrote in his book, Sacred Sorrow,
Jesus understood that lament was the only true response of faith to the brokenness and fallenness of the world. It provides the only trustworthy bridge to God across the deep seismic quaking of our lives. His life reveals that those who are truly intimate with the Father know they can pour out any hurt, disappointment, temptation, or even anger with which they struggle. Jesus’ own life is an invitation to enter through the door of lament. One warning: After we pass through that door, nothing can ever remain the same.
For me, some of the most transformative times of my life have been when I’ve poured my pain, and lament out to the Lord. I appreciate “What A Friend,” because it is a song of proclamation and praise, but also honest of the struggle and sorrow. I feel like that’s what makes it a beautiful song for a congregation to sing.
Listen to the song here:
I also had a chance to sit down with Bruce for a chat, for our church’s podcasts. You can listen to it here: