Tuesday, November 9, 2010

When There's Pain In the Offering

Blessed be Your name when the sun's shining down on me.  When the world's all as it should be, blessed be Your name.
Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering. Though there's pain in the offering, blessed be Your name.

I’ve been mulling over these words for a few weeks now.  We sang the song one Sunday morning in our worship time, and the words caught in my throat and my lips refused to form them.  But they’ve continued to roll around in my head and my heart as I’m trying to figure out their full implication.

The song is so easy to sing when I’m in that place where “the sun’s shining down on me.” It’s easy then to say that even in tough times, I can and will choose to praise God.  When God is “giving” and pouring blessings into my life I have no problem singing, “You give and take away.  My heart will choose to say, ‘Lord, blessed be Your name.’”  But when it comes right down to those tough times, those times when it seems like the darkness is overwhelming, it’s so hard to give Him that offering.  I know we’ve all had seasons of life that are, at best, less than ideal.  Some of us have lived through times of true hardship and heartache.  And during those times it is so difficult to find a way to praise God.  It is even harder to WANT to praise Him.  And when I dwell on my heartache, when I wallow in the pain of whatever tough circumstances I’m going through, I find it nearly impossible to say to God, “Though there’s pain in this offering, Lord blessed be Your Name.”

I think of Job’s wife.  You see, when God allowed Satan to test Job, Job lost everything: his children, his livelihood, his possessions, even his health.  And we all remember him and the suffering he endured.  But what about his wife?  She lost everything, too.  They were also her children, her financial security, her home.  What Job suffered, she suffered right along with him.  And I, like Job’s wife, am tempted to cry out against God in my times of suffering, to blame Him.  But what does Job tell his wife?  “Shall we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”

Last week I was reading through Ecclesiastes, and I stopped short when I got to the middle of chapter seven.  Verse fourteen of that chapter reads, “Enjoy prosperity while you can, but when hard times strike, realize that both come from God.  Remember that nothing is certain in this life.”  Realize that both come from God.  Like Job, Solomon was telling us that God does indeed give and take away.  That, in and of itself, does not describe the kind of God that I want to serve.  He seems cruel and unloving and self-serving.  But there is so much more to the story.  The Bible is filled, page after page, with the story of God’s unfailing and unselfish love for us.  And tucked in the pages of Romans 8, He tells us that He works through all circumstances to bring about good for the people who love Him.  We may not understand it and we may not see it until it’s all said and done, but He promises that He is acting in our favor.  And the best part is that He promises He won’t abandon us, even in our darkest hour.  (Hebrews 13:5-6, Deut. 31:6)

So I have a choice to make.  I can sit and dwell on my circumstances.  I can cry and get angry and blame God. Or I can rest in the knowledge of God’s unending love and grace.  I can offer Him true sacrificial praise – praise that is genuinely difficult to give – in spite of and in the midst of my circumstances.  And while the words may not make it past my lips, my heart can truly choose to say, “Lord, blessed be Your name.”

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