Audio link: Praise Through Pain
“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.”
Corrie Ten Boom
Praise through pain – the phrase itself seems contradictory, the ultimate oxymoron. Is it possible to praise through your worst struggles? Those very moments you find it hard to breathe – much less find the strength to worship?
The concept most find impossible, Job somehow embraced.
The charmed life of this upright man quickly became a nightmare. With his wealth stripped away, his servants slaughtered, and his beloved ten children gone without a single goodbye, no one could blame Job for reacting irrationally. He had every reason to fall apart and reject the very Lord he expected to protect him. And yet Job responded the exact opposite from which anyone would expect. Job 1:20-22 gives us this grieving man’s immediate and remarkable response:
“At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.’
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”
Job acknowledged his intense pain while still praising the God who allowed this pain to happen. Amazing. In the depths of Job’s agony, he focused on a profound truth: everything he had was never his to begin with. It belonged to his Creator whom had every right to remove Job’s borrowed blessings. Job understood he came into this world with nothing and would leave this world in the same way.
I remember in my darkest hours the last thing I felt like was walking around with a phony smile or saying a phony phrase pretending everything in my life was just fine. And yet, I felt my duty as a Christian meant that somehow I needed to find the strength to raise my hands in the air while proclaiming, “Thank you Lord for causing my child pain.” I knew I could never do that with a genuine spirit and so I felt inadequate – almost sinful in my lack of enthusiasm during my current crisis.
Studying Job, I realized he grieved heavily and yet still recognized that God was in control. That became my example – allow myself to grieve while finding something good (even if it seemed miniscule) in my situation. While I continued to focus on the utmost miracle of Rebecca’s complete healing, I discovered I was missing less transparent miracles that surrounded me on a daily basis. I wrote about this new-found thought on how to praise during the most unexpected times:
This week has been very difficult. The hardest of Rebecca’s life and, by default, one of mine as well. Rebecca’s pain has been excruciating and unrelenting. The massive amount of steroids exacerbated her situation by not allowing Rebecca to sleep (for days) and creating a crazed-type anxiety. The doctors determined the drugs were beginning to manifest into a steroid psychosis and immediately started tapering her off her dose as safely as possible. Day after day, night after night – an intense struggle.
Friday night she started to turn a corner. Her pain became more manageable and a new medication allowed her to have her first night of real sleep in almost a week. Although small in the eyes of most, I was thankful for this momentary but significant relief – a miracle, so to speak.
Throughout the past few years, I have changed my perspective on miracles. So many times we falsely view God’s work of wonders as a forever blessing. And yet, any physical marvel on this earth is temporary. This may sound sacrilegious to some…… as far as I am aware though, Lazarus is not still alive. Jesus raised Him from the dead – a proven miracle – and yet eventually Jesus allowed him to die. His miraculous healing on this earth was temporal, yet still a miracle. And the reason for his healing was, “for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it (John 11:4).” God granted Hezekiah an extra fifteen years of life and yet, once again, his healing was short-lived. I heard of a person with cancer who prayed his disease be cured from his body. And it was…..only it returned a decade later. This individual felt God had not answered his prayer because a true miracle would never allow the cancer to return again. Yet, what if the miracle was in the ten years of remission? What if God knew that facing death would result in a life filled with more meaningful zest in ten short years than forty years of perfect health could ever produce?
We somehow get into a trap of feeling that this earth is our home. That God intended for us to live healthy, wealthy, easy lives while we exist in this sin-ridden world. And yet, the examples of God’s most faithful lived anything but a life of ease. In fact, it was by their sufferings that the Lord was truly revealed. Job gives hope to all enduring the unthinkable. The story of Joseph gives strength to those victimized and wrongly accused. Moses allows us to persevere for future blessings we may never realize and the disciples exemplify an unmatched passion for Christ straight to their violent, unjustified deaths.
Instead of waiting (years in Rebecca’s case) for a miracle to cure every portion of her damaged body, I am learning to accept the daily and sometimes hourly miracles that God bestows in our lives. Rebecca’s past state of pancreatic remission for “only” a year and a half becomes a treasure chest of beautiful memories, and our family living together under the same roof for an extended period of time becomes a cherished act of Providence. Sleeping five hours of interrupted sleep as opposed to a total of one is viewed as a blessing. And in the midst of a severe pain attack when Rebecca smiles and says she loves me – now that becomes a true miracle.
Perspective is key to every situation. C.S. Lewis once said, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” When my future and the future of my family are permanently focused on heaven, then the abominations this earth has to offer becomes a side note – barely an honorable mention in the scheme of things. That is not to diminish the trials we endure. If I had a thousand adjectives, it would never begin to describe the intensity of hearing your child moan, scream, and writhe in unrelenting pain on a minutely, hourly, daily, and weekly basis – the nauseous exhaustion, the unanswered questions….. This seemingly never-ending cycle leads straight to insanity or straight to God. I choose God. Although by worldly standards I am irreparably scarred emotionally, and my child physically – it is only passing. This earth is not our home and it was never meant to be. The more I grasp that concept, the more freeing my situation becomes. My life is no longer on hold for a fleeting miracle that may or may not manifest.
So as I fervently pray for the miraculous healing of my daughter’s broken body on this earth, and watch for the “smaller” daily miracles our Lord bestows, I will choose to focus on the one permanent promise – “For Our God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever (Me, My Rebecca, My sons, My Brian, Anyone) believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).” That is our everlasting miracle – one that surpasses all.
This world is not our home – I had to accept that conclusion before I was capable of worshipping my Lord in all circumstances. My “praise through pain” became searching for the unexpected miracles in my daily life. This was genuine worship – nothing fake, nothing for show – just a simple display of gratitude for blessings that would typically go unnoticed. This exercise was difficult at first. It took little effort to wallow in sadness and extra effort finding anything positive in my current hardship. Yet the more I searched, the more blessings I found. Eventually it became so easy for me to see these unexpected miracles that I ran out of time to writing them down every day.
When everything in Job screamed to reject God, that was the very moment he trusted Him the most. His story gives us the freedom to grieve our circumstances while finding our own genuine way in which to praise the Almighty.
Enhance your Knowledge
What would genuine “praise through pain” look like to you?
Why do Christians find Job’s response so remarkable?
How hard do you find it to praise God in the midst of such difficult circumstances?
Are there ways in which you would feel ‘phony’ worshipping the Lord during your struggles?