Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Praising God When We're Crying

How do you praise God when life is tough? That was our discussion in Sunday school last Sunday. Our adult Sunday school classes are studying the book of Job and last Sunday we looked at the passage in which four servants came one after the other to tell him of the loss of his livestock, his servants, and his children, but we’re told that he worshiped God and didn’t charge God foolishly. It is here that we see that well known statement, “Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

I think a lot of people get the wrong idea when we talk about praising God in the hard times. People look at 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and conclude that we should thank God for whatever happens to us, even the bad things. That may be easy enough to do with some things. “Thank you Lord for my car not starting this morning; I could’ve been in a wreck.” But how do you thank God for taking away your financial wealth and for killing your children?

First, let me point out that there is always something to thank God for. God sent his Son to die for our sins. Whatever happens to us during this life, we can thank God for that. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to be happy about God allowing hardships in our lives. And let’s stay away from this hogwash about how God doesn’t cause our hardships, but he allows them to happen. Do we really care whether God did something himself or just chose not to prevent it? The result is the same; we are suffering and God could have prevented it. As Job said, “the Lord hath taken away.”

What we see in Job’s reaction is that even though he mourned the losses he suffered, he recognized the sovereignty of God. In other words, he recognized that God had the authority to do with his life as he pleased. Job also did not make foolish assumptions about why God had done what he did. Job didn’t say that God was just being cruel.

But just because we recognize that God has authority over our lives doesn’t mean we have to like what he does. Sometimes, I think that is the whole point. In the good times, it is so easy to forget that it is God who provides for us, but when life is so hard that the tears won’t stop, we fall to our knees and cry out to God. Think of Peter walking on the water. He walked a ways and began to sink, but he turned back to the Lord and they walked together to the ship.

God doesn’t take pleasure in our tears, but our tears may serve a greater purpose. We shouldn’t, however, assume that because God has a greater purpose for our suffering that he wants us to ignore it or to put on a happy face about it. As someone said, how would we know that God could solve our problems if we didn’t have problems? When we’re hurting, I think he wants us to go to him with tears in our eyes and ask him to fix it. It think he wants us to ask him why he allowed it to happen. He may not give us an answer, but he wants to be the one we turn to in hard times. He wants us to realize that he’s the only one who can fix the problem.

When a couple loses a child, they aren’t going to thank God for taking their child. That is unrealistic and it doesn’t fit with scripture. Scripture has so many examples of people who are unhappy with their situation. The question is, when you’re unhappy with your situation, do you take it to God and are you willing to accept whatever answer he gives you or do you take the attitude that God is either mean, or weak and then try to do something on your own?

There are so many examples in scripture where God was doing something or told someone that he planned to do something, but at the request of a righteous man he stayed his hand. At the request of Abraham, for example, the Lord spared one of the smaller cities in the plain of Sodom and Gomorrah. At the request of Moses, the Lord didn’t destroy Israel and start over. We don’t have to be happy about what God is doing. We don’t have to hold our tongue about what God is doing. But we do need to remember that God is God and he does as he pleases.