“Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest.”
One of my favorite lines from the hymn “For All the Saints,” these words are a source of incredible comfort in a weary world. While we wait for the eternal rest the hymn mentions, music provides a temporary relief from struggle and labor.
Recently, I was discussing with my students the idea of rest as told in hymns. The little ones found it easy to conceive of the rest and peace Christ provides by comparing it to coming home from a long day at school and snuggling up in the arms of Mommy or Daddy. The older ones were beginning to understand the types of trials and temptations that younger children could not comprehend, and so the victory won through Christ suddenly seemed more incredible to them. But all students held one idea in common: we desire rest.
Glimpses of Rest in Hymn Texts
While on earth, we cannot experience to the fullest that eternal rest we will have in heaven, but music can provide a temporary respite from the labors of this world. Music can soothe us psychologically, as we see in the Old Testament when David played his harp for Saul to soothe the king’s temper. But the hymns we sing bring us rest and peace by their words, a proclamation of the Gospel. In them, we sing of the victory that Christ has already won over sin, death, and Satan. They provide a glimpse of the future eternal rest we will have.
Labor Makes Rest Sweeter
The word rest is mentioned twice in “For All the Saints”: in the very first line of stanza 1 (“For all the saints who from their labors rest”) and the second line of stanza 6 (“Soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest”). Both are preceded by words that connect rest to work: labors and warriors. After all, warriors must labor before they can rest. For what is rest without work? Even in music, we see that we cannot have the sweet, restful joy of beautiful melodies and harmonies without work. We practice, we teach, we play Sunday after Sunday, but the work is worth it when we can finally rest in the joy of beautiful music. Likewise, the labors of faithfulness to Christ in this world make the eternal rest and peace of heaven that is ours only through the death and resurrection of Jesus that much sweeter.
As we approach two of the busiest times of the year for church musicians—Advent and Christmas—may we remember that the work is worth it. Through our labors, may others catch a glimpse of the rest and peace only Christ can give.