Not all songs we sing are supposed to be happy.

Paul and Silas were in jail in Philippi after being beaten. They were singing hymns.

IMG_2021.JPGWhen I was little, I think I filled in songs like “If you’re happy and you know it shake your chains.” Rattle rattle.

But those aren’t hymns. They talk about our experience of God rather talking about who God is. They make us feel better rather than giving us a better understanding of who God is. Which may not make us feel better, but we can, with better perspective, find courage and comfort, hope and peace.

Several years later, Paul sent the church in Philippi their own letter. We call in Philippians. And in that letter, he includes a hymn that the early church would have known, the kind of song that starts with who God is rather than how we feel.

Paul introduces it like this: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:”

And then he gives us the words, not rhyming, not poetry to be set to our music, but a hymn nonetheless:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Paul and Silas may have been singing this hymn that night, reminding themselves of the humility of Christ, the suffering of Christ, and the current majesty of Christ.

They knew that Jesus knew pain like they were experiencing, and was committed to love so much that it led to this kind of pain. They were reminded that although the jealous human traffickers may have wanted them to suffer and the magistrates wanted to punish them, Jesus loved them, understood them, and showed them that pain wasn’t always a sign of God’s punishment or need to get our attention.

When they were praying in that jail, they reminded themselves of who they were talking to.