God's Faithfulness in Suffering
Posted October 01, 2017
After seeing eight-time Grammy nominee Matt Maher open for Toby Mac a few years ago he quickly become one of my favorite artists and songwriters. His previous album Saints and Sinners was my top album of 2015.
This is Maher’s sixth studio album, and perhaps his most personal one to date. After writing most of the songs for the album, Maher lost his father. He has stated that for him this album is a declaration responding to the dilemma of suffering. The album answers the question of how we echo our faith, and whether it is possible to have hope and joy that is not governed by fear. He stated that many of these songs, in particular the worship songs, were inspired by hymns written in or around some personal experience or bout with suffering – suffering of all different kinds: personal, physical, mental, and spiritual.
Below are a few comments on each of the songs on this excellent album:
Echoes One – In this short opener, he sings of hearing the sound of a voice, or echoes, inside that keeps him awake in the middle of the night. The voice/echoes are telling him to make the wrong things right.
Clean Heart – This song was written by Audrey Assad and Maher. In a world where everyone is yelling, in all this division, may we be known by our love. May we follow Christ’s direction to love our enemies. This mid-tempo rocker has themes of forgiveness, mercy and compassion. Let it start with us with a clean heart. Key lyric: When everybody’s looking for another fight, when troubles on the rise, no end in sight. Oh Savior, won’t You come and make the wrong things right.
What a Friend – This song was inspired by the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” by Joseph M. Scriven, who wrote it in 1855 to comfort his mother in Iceland while he was living in Canada. The song speaks to God’s faithfulness even in the midst of personal sorrow and devastation. The songs is driven by a good drum beat, hand clap and backing vocals. We all have fears and worries, but we can lay our burdens down. Key lyric: What a friend we have in Jesus, east to west my sins are gone, I see grace on every horizon, and forever and ever His heart is my home.
Holy – This song is written by Chris Tomlin, Hank Bentley, Jason Ingram, Mike Donehey and Maher. It is a song of worship to God that begins with keys, and builds in the chorus with drums and backing vocals. Key lyric: Holy, You are holy. There is none beside Thee.
Your Love Defends Me - This was the first single released a few months before the album was released. The song was written by Hannah Kerr and Maher, the song originally appearing on her 2016 album Overflow. The song features excellent backing vocals. Key lyric: Surely my God is the strength of my soul, your love defends me, your love defends me.
Just as I Am – This song samples the well-known hymn written by Charlotte Elliot in 1835. We come to Jesus in our guilt and shame. He welcomes us and takes us in His loving arms through his amazing grace and shed blood. We’ll never be the same again.
Awake My Soul (A Thousand Tongues) – This song is written by Jonas Myrin, Laura Story, Matt Redman and Maher. It is inspired by Charles Wesley’s 1739 hymn “Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”. This worship song is piano driven and features some excellent backing vocals. Key lyric: Awake my soul to sing, the glories of my God and King, arise and praise the One, worthy of the songs of a thousand tongues.
Faithfulness – This song is written by Jacob Sooter, Stephen McWhirter and Maher, originally appearing on the 2017 album God That Saves by Iron Bell Music. The song features vocals from Steffany Gretzinger, who serves as a worship leader at Bethel Church in California. This worshipful song begins with piano and builds slowly. Great is the faithfulness of our God, always and forever.
Echoes Two – This short song is driven by acoustic guitar. He asks the Lord to bind us together as one, to find the greater good and search for the common ground.
Picket Sign – Using language from today’s news “protest, stand, march, walk, justice”, this song begins with piano and builds powerfully with a memorable chorus. Key lyric: The leapt in like a picket sign, You carried the weight for all mankind, You gave Your life just to give me mine.
Won't Let Me Down – This song is written by Bryan Fowler, Jason Ingram and Maher. This song speaks to the faithfulness of God. He is not surprised by our suffering. There is no fear in His eyes. In the midst of suffering, through the night His love won’t let us down. He will hold us up. Starting with piano, the song features a good drum beat and backing vocals. Key lyric: Your love won't let me down. You always find a way somehow.
The Least of These – This beautiful song is written by John Tibbs and Maher. It is simple musically, opening piano and includes strings. The song includes the recurring theme of echoes. He sings of the refugee, using Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:35 “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me”. Key lyric: When love became a refugee, He became my refuge
The Cross Forever Speaks – This song is written by Jason Ingram, Paul Mabury and Maher. It features a good drum beat. This song addresses questions about suffering. Even if everything is taken from him, he knows he is not forsaken. He will still lift his hands up in praise. Key lyric: You may silence me, but the cross forever speaks.
Into Your Hands – This song is written by Jason Ingram, Paul Mabury, Trevor Morgan and Maher. This song samples the 1896 hymn “I Surrender All” by Judson W. Van DeVenter. It features some excellent piano playing, as well as guitar and organ. Key lyric: You have all my heart, all that is broken. I surrender all, My life into Your hands.
As Good as It Gets – This song is written by David Garcia, Francesca Battistelli and Maher. This beautiful song is driven by acoustic guitar. It is about God being real in our struggle. Key lyric: You take my eyes off of the future. You lead my heart out of the past. You are the promise here in the moment, where I find my rest.
Your Love Defends Me (Solo Piano Version) – The Deluxe Edition ends with a beautiful stripped-down version of this excellent song. Day and night, God is with him in the fight. He is not alone.
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