Hymns to Chase Away the Harmful Spirit

One night was worse than all of the others. I honestly can’t even remember very much of it anymore. It is as if the pain and darkness of my own grief was so pungent that my brain has blocked all sensory memory of the experience.

I do remember that my cries felt different. No, they were moans, not cries.  I had lost control of them. They rose unbidden from the center of my gut, and they came without ceasing, one perfect messa di voce after another.

I was staring my barrenness in the face, and my stomach vomited moans.

I thought to myself, “This is despair.”

I remember that my husband looked at me differently that night. He recognized the harmful spirit. No tender touches would chase it away. No platitudes of earthly comfort would suffice. He simply reached for the hymnal and began to sing:

“Why should cross and trial grieve me?
Christ is near
With His cheer;
Never will He leave me.
Who can rob me of the heaven
That God’s Son
For me won
When His life was given?

When life’s troubles rise to meet me,
Though their weight
May be great,
They will not defeat me.
God, my loving Savior, sends them;
He who knows
All my woes
Knows how best to end them.

God gives me my days of gladness,
And I will
Trust Him still
When He sends me sadness.
God is good; His love attends me
Day by day,
Come what may,
Guides me and defends me.” *

My husband had no lyre that night, but his singing was a David to my Saul. Hymn after hymn he sang, boldly proclaiming the Word of God in our home and swinging that powerful sword of Spirit to chase the Devil from our door.

And, as my husband – my warrior! – sang those Gospel Words of light and life into my own ears, my shield of faith was strengthened. The flaming darts of the devil were extinguished. My moans ceased.

* Lutheran Service Book 756 “Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me?” (Text: Paul Gerhardt, 1607-76; tr. Christian Worship, 1993, sts. 1-3)