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According to one “60 Minutes” interview, roughly 80 years ago, Jozef Kropinski was caught working for the Polish resistance during WWII and was imprisoned for four years until his death by the Nazis at Auschwitz.
A composer, Kropinski served as violinist in the camp orchestra. At night, Kropinski would sneak into the “pathology lab” (where the bodies of those killed were dismembered) in order to write pieces of music that would “help raise the spirits of fellow prisoners.” His desire was to encourage fellow prisoners by using music to help them remember previous, more happy times.
For many in the Nazi camps, music provided a relief from the reality. Several millennia ago, two prisoners modeled a similar idea. Imprisoned for removing powers of divination from a girl—and thus depriving her owners of income—Paul and Silas were attacked, stripped of their clothes, beaten, and bound in an inner chamber of the prison. We cannot know what this was like, but we can have an idea—it was lonely and gloomy, and appeared quite bleak.
And yet faith and hope rose to heaven as the two prayed and sang songs to God. Oh, to listen in on this moment! In our modern times, we can imagine the two singing songs like “It is Well” or “Holy, Holy, Holy” or “Amazing Grace.” The a cappella heart cry of someone in need is a sound like no other. It’s a holy moment between God and his child, between Jesus and his brothers and sisters and friends.
In times of tragedy and distress, where anxiety and depression seek to capsize us, we must turn to worship and to song. This could be us singing, or us simply listening to or watching others worship.
As praise arises, our hearts do as well. One way to practice this is to sing through the Psalms. Instead of reading them, sing them, choosing whatever melody that comes to mind. As your heart is stirred to life, it gives you courage to keep going, praising God even in the darkest of times.
Oh, and one other thing may happen—you will be a witness to those around you. As Paul and Silas prayed and sang, “the prisoners were listening to them.” Your praise is for your benefit, but it is also for the benefit of those around you. As you find joy, you can share joy. So today, sing loud and sing boldly. God reigns over all the earth, and he dwells within our hearts.
What songs come to mind as a heart-cry during this time of distress?
How can we use praise and song to minister and care for those around us?