Lately I’ve been wrestling with a body not yet thirty years old that may never work the way most people’s do. My diabetic levels remain high, the numbers are all wrong, and I look back and has it really been this way for months on end? Why do I try so hard, pray so much…yet here I am with this invisible weight?
And then…I’ve been watching friends around me wrestle too. Wrestle with worse. Grapple with emotional and physical and family issues that I’m quite sure would warp and bend me till I broke. And I’ve seen these same people pray, cry out to God, and sometimes…so it seems…their situations have only gotten worse. And my soul aches for their ache.
And yet I’ve been sensing, over and over, that I’m meant to be “unshaken”. That I’m meant to trust God, and trust Him, and trust Him. I believe He keeps asking me when I get frustrated and weary, “Do you trust me? Do you trust me if you numbers never get better? If it’s like this forever? If it only gets worse?”
And why would I? Why would I trust a God who asks me that? Why would I trust Him for my friends? I can only trust because He’s a God who gave up everything for me…bled for me, was bent and broken for me, and in humility defeated death for me. I’ve found that when everything else is moving, shaking, that God is the same yesterday. today. tomorrow. And how incredibly thankful I am that He doesn’t change because that means He is always Love. He is always Life. He is always Hope…always a Good Father.
Is it possible that true trust in God must come only through suffering? Is it possible that suffering actually produces in me a stronger hope than ease could produce? I’m slowly…oh so slowly… coming to understand what Paul says in Romans 5:3-5
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
I desperately crave that Hope that suffering produces.
FURTHER, is it possible that suffering produces a different kind of praise? God wants my praise at all times, yes, but there’s a praise that follows blessing and there’s a different kind of praise that follows pain. Both are good, but maybe there’s a weight to our praise through pain that we simply can’t replicate at other times.
There’s a story (Mark 12:41-44) where Jesus points out a widow who gave a very small amount of money to God. Yet Jesus marvels at her faith because she put in “everything…she had to live on”. And though others gave more, they gave out of their abundance…out of their extra…though they gave more, it didn’t COST them as much. Perhaps the same is true of the cost of our praise.
When we feel that we have nothing left to give- when our circumstances are screaming lies like “what if God isn’t really good? What if He doesn’t love you or isn’t strong enough to save you? Why would you trust Him?” Maybe then our praise costs a bit more… When we feel that the answer isn’t coming and we have no blessing to stand on, the weight of our praise is powerful. The sound of that praise is deafening.
As my mom said today, the enemy simply can’t stand in praise like that. If we can praise God in the MIDDLE of the worst, when it costs us everything to hope, the Kingdom of God is more alive than ever. It’s advancing, growing deeper roots, spreading like beautiful vines that are taking over the death and destruction and the darkness of this world.
When God can produce praise from our suffering through His own love, through His own sacrifice and presence… the enemy. simply. can’t. stand.
His lies must stop. His end has been sealed. The victory is ours.
Yet we wait for now in the storm. To my friends and to those I may never meet… I pray you find strength for where you hurt right now. I pray God gives you a place to stand in the storm. I pray that when you’re hard pressed, you’re not crushed; when you’re perplexed, you’re not in despair; when you’re struck down, you’re not destroyed. I pray you’d KNOW in the core of your being that though you are persecuted you’re NEVER abandoned. (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
Don’t get me wrong: Praise is not faking happiness. It isn’t hiding our pain or disappointment from God. Praise is still looking at God when your world is falling apart. Praise can be the whisper to “help me in my unbelief” when it would be easier to not talk to God at all. Praise is hands lifted through tears when no words will come. Praise is giving God even the tiniest piece of your broken heart, with faltering hands, because deep down you are learning to trust, allowing Him to grow something in you EVEN THOUGH it hurts. That praise is costly, a sacrifice, yet I believe it’s one of the most beautiful and precious gifts you can give God.
I leave you with this from this song I LOVE by Casting Crowns: Praise You in the Storm
And with this Bible passage from the Message version: (2 Corinthians 4:13-18)
13-15 We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!
16-18 So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.