Michael Van Patter is, among many things, the Director of Worship Arts at Hope Chapel in Greensboro, NC and he’s come to be a friend. In 2013, Michael’s son, Watts came down with a fever and three days later was diagnosed with Infantile Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at 10 months of age. Devastating news, this began what Michael calls “the most difficult years of [his] life.” You can read the whole story on Michael and his wife, Hannah’s blog Clouds of Mercy. It is a story of great sorrow and suffering, but also of great faith in the Lord.
Watts has been cancer free for some time now, thanks be to God! Last year, Michael released an album of seven songs called Songs In the Night, which he wrote over the two years of Watts’ treatment. Of this album, Michael writes,
My songs started to take shape around the beautiful paradox of feeling both brokenhearted and hopeful at the same time. I’ve grown certain that to live is to feel these things. These are the most honest songs I’ve ever written, and I’ve never felt more compelled to write as for this project.
This week, Michael is giving away his album for free on Noisetrade. I cannot encourage you enough to get this album. If you can, go buy it on Bandcamp, Amazon or iTunes and support this good brother. But be sure to get it. The Christian life is one filled with suffering, and this makes us long for heaven. Scripture almost exclusively speaks of suffering in terms of it’s benefits to the believer. Just two examples:
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
– Hebrews 12:11
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
– 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
We see that suffering has a highly communal nature when Paul tells us to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15) and to “bear one another’s burdens.” (Galatians 6:2) Grief has a tendency to cause us to retreat inside our homes and ourselves, but I like how Michael says it on the second track:
Your sadness is sacred, your grief is a gift to us all,
So come in closer, and you will show us,
the beauty of broken heart.
May we share our sadness just as we share our joy. Michael’s hope (and mine) is that these songs would encourage you (or maybe someone you care about) in your dark nights. That you would know that your broken heart is beautiful, because it is held by a Great Love.”