“The secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.” –Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” –Psalm 150:6
In the book of Isaiah 43:1-3, it says: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you will not be swept away. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned nor will flames consume you. For I, the Lord, am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior.”
Now, initially, when you read this verse, what do you feel? If I’m being honest, I don’t feel all too well when I read that. When I read those uses of the word “through”, it makes me feel a bit uneasy. I don’t want to go through the waters, I want to go around the waters. I don’t want to go through the fire, I want to go around the fire.
Although our first inclinations when going through hardships are either to go around them or to avoid them, Christ calls us to persevere. However, he doesn’t call us to go through these alone. As we all know, the name “Emmanuel” means “God with us”. God is with us and right by our side in that water and in that fire, whatever that may mean to you. Christ tells us himself that we’ll have trouble in this world, but to have the courage to not be afraid because He has conquered it. (John 16:33)
But a lot of times that fire gets too hot. A lot of times, that water can get a little too high. Sometimes those questions of doubt come into play. “God, where are you? Do you know what I’m feeling? Can you even imagine how I feel?” But that’s when I hear the voice of mercy call back to me and say “Child, of course I do. I feel everything you feel. I’ve felt more than you can possibly imagine. I’ve felt all of it for you.”
God is always with us. He weeps when we weep. He rejoices when we rejoice. God wants us to feel those emotions we feel when things get overwhelming and when it feels like we can’t handle it by ourselves, because guess what? We can’t. But He can do all things.
I think one of the bravest things we can do in the face of adversity is to turn to the Lord and give him praise. Heck, why stop at adversity? Why not in the triumph? Psalm 150 says, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” For me, praise isn’t a way to avoid or get around your problems, it’s a way through them.
A couple of years ago, I found myself at a crossroads in life. I was ending my 2nd missionary year with NET and I had just gotten accepted to a college I’d desired to attend to finish my degree. Through a series of unfortunate (financial) events, I couldn’t attend the university I had wanted and was in St. Paul when I had found out. I was devastated, to say the least, and I quickly started questioning the Lord and His will. Eventually, after my questioning and doubts, I told the Lord that if this was the cup he had for me, I would gladly drink from it.
Through God’s providence, I ended up working for NET, albeit in a different capacity than a missionary, being provided a car, a place to stay, community, brotherhood, new and long-lasting friendships, and the security of the warm embrace of the Father’s love for me. Boom. Mic drop. I should also add that, while God was providing these things for me, at the moment, I couldn’t see how He was providing. Looking back on the whole situation, I can definitely see how Christ is never outdone in generosity.
Brothers and sisters, no matter what kind of time you find yourself in, let’s not forget to give the Lord the praise that He’s due. We know Christ is working in all and through all things, but the waiting can be the hardest part. Those questions still linger, as do the doubts. But the questions & doubts are okay! To be honest, I believe it’s a powerful witness to an unbelieving world that someone could praise God even when He doesn’t do what they expect when they expect.
So let our praise be His welcome and let the disposition of our hearts through every trial we go through be the words of St. Paul in Romans 8:28, that “We know that God works for the good of all who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.”