It is often in the midst of our suffering when God feels the nearest. Whether this is because His grace is all the more prevalent at such times, or the fact that, by the act of distrusting ourselves, we are stripped of our pride---or both---the case was certainly true for Reba McEntire in her recent album release: "Sing it Now: Songs of Faith and Hope." The album's title was inspired by the recent hardships in her life, beginning with the 2014 loss of her father and ending with the painful divorce from her husband of twenty-six years only months later. Both trials were devastating, but McEntire expresses a serenity which, she asserts, hinges solely upon her trust in God.
“These songs of faith and hope, that’s what you gotta have when you’re going through bad times – and good times. You gotta have faith and hope to carry you through each day.”
In fact, she seems to suggest that the album was made possible, not hindered, by the events in her life:
“I really do believe that timing is everything. And that everything happens for a reason when it happens. So now is the perfect timing. I don’t really understand why, but it just worked out to be the time for me to do a gospel album.”
Personally speaking, I was surprised by the impact the music had on my heart; not particularly a country music fan myself, I had initially assumed to write it off as a nice, sentimental piece. However, the meshed blend of ten traditional hymns and ten contemporary Christian songs---many of them written from Reba's own experiences---really spoke to my heart in a way that I had not expected. The gentle, but poignantly bold strength behind the lyrics addressing controversial subjects like Creation and national repentance really won my respect and attention. I also had this unexplainable response to the feeling that the tremendously likable redhead had not only been singing, but truly feeling, her words. How delighted was I when a later interview explained the keen rawness I detected both in her overall performance. While her voice was rustically lovely as always, there had been an underlying edge of sincerity that I really admired. She hadn't aimed for a perfect recording, but for an honest one:
"...if you’re just singing a song and you don’t really feel it, the audience will tell it.”
Indeed, there is made beauty from ashes wherever Christ is.