Job said, “I was born with nothing, and I will die with nothing. The Lord gave, and now he has taken away. May his name be praised!” (Job 1:21 GNT)
As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. (James 5:11 NIV)
Praise the LORD, because he heard my prayer for help. (Psalms 28:6 NCV)
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV)
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MANY OF US KNOW THE STORY behind the Christian song, “Praise You In This Storm,” by Casting Crowns. It’s the story of a young girl who loved the Lord Jesus, but her life on earth was cut short by a painful battle with cancer.
The band’s lead singer and chief songwriter Mark Hall talks about praying with the family for Erin’s health only to face repeated heartache. He wrote the song for her. It begins: “I was sure by now, God,/that you would have reached down/And wiped our tears away,/Stepped in and saved the day.”
It didn’t work out that way. Erin left her earthly mother and father for the loving arms of her Lord. While Erin was at peace, those left behind grieved, yet, as children of the living God, they knew without doubt that He felt their pain.
The closing words of the song express this faith: “And though my heart is torn/I will praise you in this storm.”
IN THE GOSPEL OF LUKE, CHAPTER 18, JESUS shares with His disciples what the NIV headnote calls “The Parable of the Persistent Widow.”
Luke prefaces the story with these words: “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (v. 1)
The point of His story is that prayer is not a one-time thing, a one-off request to the Great Genie in the Sky who then snaps His divine fingers to bring our wish to us, no matter how noble the request or selfless it might seem.
Jesus emphasizes this point when He ends His story with this question: “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (v. 8)
Jesus was assuring us in the parable that the Father loves His creation and longs to do good things for us, but what He wants more than fulfilling our Christmas wish list is to grow our characters to be more Christ-like, and that is a process that takes a lifetime.
THE APOSTLE PAUL acknowledged that by saying we should take “joy” in our troubles, “because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character.” (Romans 5:3-4 NCV)
James, the half-brother of Jesus, echoed that thought when he encouraged us to “Count it all joy, my brothers [and sisters], when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2-3 ESV).
“Steadfastness” is another word for “character,” or “faith in God,” which is God’s goal for our lives.
Finally, the apostle Peter encouraged his readers, who were facing persecution, to remain strong in their faith. “The purpose of these troubles,” he said, “is to test your faith as fire tests how genuine gold is. Your faith is more precious than gold, and by passing the test, it gives praise, glory, and honor to God.” (1 Peter 1:7 GW)
How important is our faith to the issues of “prayer” and “troubles”?
Listen to the writer of Hebrews, who sums it up this way: “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV)
HOW, THEN, ARE WE TO PRAY?
Seriously, how can we really give thanks when we’re hurting, when a loved one is suffering, when we’re feeling down, lost, confused — when quitting looks like the only reasonable way out.
One of the great strengths of the Bible is that the LORD allows so many passages showing human weakness, evil, cunning, disobedience, and irreverence. We know the reason why: He’s showing us how we appear to Him, not the wonderful exemplary individuals we see ourselves to be. We also are to see how desperately we need a Savior.
The writer of Psalm 107, for example, lists several items of distress, where people were “hungry and thirsty,” or were “prisoners suffering in iron chains,” or “became fools through their rebellious ways,” or “reeled and staggered like drunken men.”
In each case, the writer assures us, “they cried out to the LORD in their trouble.” What was the LORD’s response? “He saved them from their distress.” (all quotes from NIV)
Yes, Jesus became man and walked among us, feeling what we feel. In one passage, the Bible says, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35 ESV)
There’s another story Jesus told, where the punch line was yet more assurance of God’s mercy: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11 NASB)
These are just a few of the many biblical examples demonstrating the LORD’s amazing patience, love, and mercy with His creation.
That does not mean He will make all the pain go away immediately — or, even at all — in this world. It means only that He walks with us if we allow Him, and our reward will be a blessed eternity with Him.
YOU JUST KNEW THIS MEDITATION would circle back to “faith.”
The whole point of God’s goodness — His love, His mercy, His forgiveness — is to teach us to depend on Him, to believe in Him, to rely on Him to walk us through the storms of our lives.
It was never about healing in the moment. The moment vanishes like a wisp of smoke.
It was never about our happiness. Temporal joy vanishes quickly.
It was never about our satisfaction. We don’t know what’s good for us.
It was always about God remaking us in His image to become the men and women He purposed us to be.
The prophet Jeremiah says God has a plan for our lives. “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 TLB)
The psalmist tell us that God knew us even before we were born. “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13 NLT)
Our role is to believe and to go to the LORD in prayer, even when, as in the song by Casting Crowns, He hasn’t taken our pain away.
As difficult as it may seem, He calls us to find the joy in all circumstances when we cast our cares at His feet.
“Give thanks in everything,” the apostle Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (CSB), “for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
PRAYER: Our gracious and merciful Heavenly Father, Your love for us is greater than we can fathom. Your joy in our growth is more than we can imagine. Your sadness at our rebellion would break our hearts if we had even the smallest portion of understanding. Occasionally, we see glimpses of Your majesty, and we’re in awe. LORD, love us and hold onto us. Keep us against Your bosom through the storms of our lives and deliver us onto the peaceful shores of Paradise. We pray in the Master’s name. Amen
- Do you find it easy to give thanks to God for His many blessings in the midst of your pain? Do you see that He might have a plan that is for your good even though it eludes your understanding? Can you believe that?
- When you pray for healing, do you expect an immediate response? What is it? Healing? Or do you think He might be growing your faith?
- How do you comfort someone in their pain when you fight your own doubts? Can you be authentic with them?
- Do you pray for God’s will to be done, even while telling Him your wants and desires?
- Is this a hard lesson for you to learn? Do you struggle with this? How do you handle the struggle? Do you seek His help?