This is day 14 of 31 Days of Songs and Stories. For an index of all the posts in the series, click here.
I first heard the song “Blessed Be Your Name” at a training conference as I started out in youth ministry. From the very beginning it was a song that captivated me. The thought of praising God through the good and the bad seemed significant, and fitted with my life at the time.
On one hand, it was one of the happiest times of my life. I was meeting new people and I had close Christian friendships for the first time. I was growing in faith, I was learning so much and having amazing new experiences, but I was also struggling with times of darkness when it seemed that a light would switch off inside me and make the world seem black and hopeless. I really clung to those words: “When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say: “Blessed be the name of the Lord.””
However this is a song that not only sustained me inwardly, but which also produced radical outward transformation in a situation.
As part of my work, I was involved in a boarding school, working with a group of young people two evenings a week- organising activities, helping them with homework, making sure they got to bed on time, and generally being around to talk to them and support them.
I was also involved in some lessons, assemblies and clubs, and once a term they had a church service in the school and I organised a group to provide the music.
About six months into my time there I became increasingly concerned about one of the girls. She had been struggling for a while but for the last couple of weeks it had seemed that there was something serious going on. She was extremely anxious and struggling to concentrate on anything, she was scared of being left by herself, even for a short period of time, and she just seemed unhappy. When she began talking with me about methods of suicide I knew it was time to alert a senior member of staff.
Despite the support she received, little seemed to improve. Then, around a week later, she said some things that made me realise that she and her friend had been involved in some kind of occult activity. I couldn’t get the full story from them, but I was convinced that this was the root of the problem. I had no idea what to do, except to share the situation with a few people and ask them to pray.
The following week I was in the school to play at a service and then stay on for the evening. We sang “Blessed be your name” during the service and the boarders I worked with (none of whom were Christians) absolutely loved it.
That evening, during their free time after dinner, they kept asking me to sing it for them again and they joined in. It led to a whole group of us dancing up and down the corridor singing the song. It was lots of fun and not all entirely worshipful (one of the girls insisted on changing the line “You give and take away” to “Chinese takeaway!”) In any case I was delighted that they were enjoying it and singing it.
A little while later, I realised that the girl I was concerned about wasn’t there and hadn’t been with the group for about half an hour. I went to her room and found her sitting in bed reading. She was calm, she was concentrating on her book and she had just spent half an hour alone, when the previous week she struggled to spend a minute alone! I knew that something had changed dramatically, and from that day on she was back to her usual self.
I’m not going to pretend to completely understand what happened that day, but I’m convinced there was something about the fact that God’s name was being praised all along that corridor that evening that altered something in the spiritual realm and freed her from the oppression she had been suffering.
Worship is powerful!