In Christ Alone

Planning an outdoor wedding is always a bit of a gamble —even in Southern California with its fairly predictable weather. But I had dreamed of an outdoor wedding since I was a child. I loved the romance of the gentle breeze and the warm sun highlighting each joyous moment. And the gamble paid off, May 29, 2006, was a gorgeous day. No hint of June gloom, not a cloud to shadow our special day. I often reflected in later years that I wouldn’t have changed a single thing. I loved our flowers, I loved the venue, and most especially, I loved our song choices.

We sang “In Christ Alone.” It was my favorite song at the time and it seemed a perfect way to cement our marriage on the foundation of Jesus. We loved him, we knew that for our marriage to succeed it needed to be centered around him. It felt almost like a rabbit’s foot, singing this song would bring us luck and cause our marriage to thrive. It was after all, based on Christ alone.

When my marriage began to fall apart, I found myself clinging to this song all the more. My talisman, my promise that everything would be okay. When the song would miraculously pop up at just the right time I thought, “Surely God is speaking to us. Reminding us he has promised our marriage would be okay.” My first weekend alone at church after he had moved out, we sang the song once again. I cried bitter tears as I felt abandoned by God. How cruel for him to bring this song into my days of mourning.

For the last few years, I’ve braved many a worship service. As I hear the first few chords strummed on the guitar, I have steeled my soul, waiting for the song to pass. I knew by then that I had misunderstood God’s promise to me. He had never guaranteed a successful marriage or an easy life. But I still felt like I had done everything right, why had things turned out like this? It was easy to sing those powerful words when I was at the height of hopefulness. On my wedding day, with nothing but promise before me I easily felt God’s presence. But those lyrics seemed more of a dagger than a rose when life had gone awry. What is this power of Christ if it isn’t a happy life?

In Christ alone, my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ, I stand

This past January I visited another church to hear one of my friends share his testimony of coming to faith. I wept as I heard him tell the story of being a wild and ungodly man who finally was brought to his knees, and ultimately to Christ. As he wrapped up the service he said, “Let’s sing In Christ Alone.” I found the dam inside me begin to crack as a flood of emotions broke free. God’s promise had always been that he would remain faithful to ME, not to my marriage.

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ, I live

All at once the past few years came into focus. Each instance of this song appearing in my life was a gentle love song from my Savior whispering, “I have not left you, I will never leave you, you are mine.”

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ, I’ll stand

Jesus is not my good luck charm, my copilot, the reason for the season, or any other means to an end. He doesn’t promise health, wealth, obedient children, abundance, a happy marriage, a four-bedroom house, safety, stability, a promotion, or the best sale price on chicken. What he promises is himself. He promises that he is faithful, even when all other vows have been broken. In a world of mid-life crises, he is unchanging. In Christ alone, my hope is found. Not hope for a happy life, but a much better and bigger hope.

There in the ground, His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave, He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ