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Make Your Pain Mean Something

This semester I’ve been teaching a college course on music and worship history and I just finished a section dealing with negro spirituals and specifically, the Fisk Jubilee Singers.

If you don’t know, spirituals developed both to encourage slaves spiritually as well as communicate secret messages without slave masters understanding. They weren’t allowed to talk during work so they sang.

After emancipation and the Civil War, spirituals had lost some of their favor because they reminded now free people of terrible oppression and darkness. African-American churches mostly began to adopt the hymnody of churches around them, and if it weren’t for the Fisk Jubilee Singers we might not have this rich, beautiful legacy today.

This group started as a means to raise money for Fisk University in Nashville. They too were hesitant to sing the spirituals of their slave past. Depending on where you read, either a majority of the singing group were former slaves themselves or they were children of slaves. Either way, this had to have been something raw and real to them.

They were connected to the material because they lived it. Their cries to Jesus for freedom had been answered, and they turned their pain into something profoundly beautiful. A tour of Eastern states turned into a tour of Great Britain where they spent many months singing in towns across the nation as well as dignitaries and even Queen Victoria herself.

For all their effort, they raised about 10,000 British pounds. If you converted that to US dollars in today’s currency exchange it would be upwards of $860,000! Their songs help establish a university.

Thankfully none of us have had to endure anything as horrendous as slavery, but we have all known pain. I think we can just as easily want to forget that pain. The things that gave us life in the midst of trial and tragedy may seem tainted when we find a breakthrough.

And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose. –Romans 8:28 (AMP)

You and I have the responsibility to partner with God in redemption. Even more than you do, God wants to make your pain mean something. He’s weaving every single thing into a tapestry–it’s all working together to produce something beautiful.

You may feel raw and vulnerable at times, but don’t back down. With great confidence, know that He loves you and you love Him. You’re called for a purpose, and pain has no final say or victory.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever done something like this through the pain and watched God redeem?


If you’re interested here’s a recording from the early 20th century–incredible.

9 Comments

  1. I never knew this about the Fisk Jubilee Singers. And I agree that we would have lost a treasury of songs, even though they were born of pain, if they had not preserved the spirituals. God absolutely can redeem us through the pain.
    Blessings, Jason!

    • Gives us such hope, doesn’t it? I’m so glad they didn’t lose that tradition and then how it was used even further in the Civil Rights Movement. We serve an awesome God!

  2. I have went through my share of pain. A bunch of different scenarios but there was one thing that was the same, God was always there. Amazing message! Thank you Jason! God bless!

    • Oh yeah, pain is unavoidable, but when we can entrust it to God, miracles will happen. Thanks Jaylynn. God bless you too!

  3. Love that history, thanks for sharing.

    I’m going through a trial right now that has me clinging to God. I have hope, I long to see the beauty He will make from all the ashes burning around me.

    Thanks for the encouraging post.

    • TC, sorry you’re facing hardship--may God surround you the grace to endure and the peace that surpasses all understanding. Blessings upon blessings to you and yours. Thanks so much.

      • Thanks, Jason. God is good. His love never fails.

  4. I always love a history lesson. The early rockers took there sounds from the black southern churches as well. Music is one of the greatest gifts from God.

    That kind of pain, as you pointed out, is beyond all of us. I’ve suffered, but never in a way I’d compare to what slaves have. God answers prayers.

    • Perspective is a wonderful thing, for sure. So much to be grateful for! Thank you, Floyd.

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