Beside the rivers of Babylon,

We sat down and wept as we thought of Jerusalem

We put away our lyres, hanging them on the branches of the willow trees.

(Psalm 137:1-2)


I’ve been kind of obsessed with the story of the Jewish exile lately.  (Check out 2 Chronicles 36:17-23, Ezra, Nehemiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel…)


Here’s the story.  Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians.  An entire nation was carried away into another country.  Family members separated.  Family members slaughtered.  Ripped from everything and everyone they’ve ever known, and forced to walk in shame into foreign lands to become slaves.


Maybe it’s the fact that I look at things differently now that I’m a mother.  I cannot imagine the horror of being in such a situation while your children look on.  I cannot fathom the heartache and fear this would bring.  We are talking about deep, deep suffering.


I remember reading an article a few years ago about woman who was a refugee in another country.  She still carried the key to her house on a tattered string around her neck.  She had been waiting for 25 years, but she still dreamed of returning to her home.


Beside the rivers of Babylon,

We sat down and wept as we thought of Jerusalem

We put away our lyres, hanging them on the branches of the willow trees.


Can you picture it?  They sat along the banks of this new, foreign land and wept.  They took their instruments, instruments that used to be full of beautiful melodies and hymns of celebration and joy, and hung them in the branches of the willow trees.


They no longer had a song to sing.


As I read this story today, suddenly the faces of many of you dear friends came to mind.  In my heart, I saw you, too, hanging your harps in the branches of the willow tree.


You have lost your song.


Painful circumstances.  Hard times.  Seasons of relentless struggle.  I’ve seen the light fade from your eyes as you face the most difficult of days.  You cannot imagine feeling the compulsion to lift your voice in song again.


But the story does not end in Babylon.


God delivers them.  They are restored.  They are rebuilt.  They are brought back. 


And they learn how to sing again.


And you will too.   But you eventually have to take the lyres out of the trees.  You have to take a step forward, lift your hands up, and grab hold of what you laid down in your season of exile.


Some of you emerged from your “actual exile” a long time ago, but you haven’t found your song again.  You are afraid to try.  You wonder what will happen in your heart when you open it up.  You wonder if you will have anything to sing about.


And therein lies the beauty of the matter.


There is no song as beautiful as the song of the broken.  The purity, depth, and honesty of a wounded heart being poured out can bring the greatest comfort, healing and joy imaginable.


So, I encourage you today to take down what you have hung up.  Find your voice again.  Whisper a prayer.  Sing a song.  Share your story. 


They will come home and sing songs of joy on the heights of Jerusalem.   They will be radiant because of the many gifts the Lord has given them… Their life will be like a watered garden, and all their sorrows will be gone.  The young women will dance for joy, and the men – old and young – will join in the celebration.  I will turn their mourning into joy.  I will comfort them and exchange their sorrow for rejoicing.

(Jeremiah 31:12-14)