I’ve been asked more than once how you can lead people in singing God’s praise when you’re going through your own personal trials. This past weekend I had the opportunity to find out first hand.
I was out of town last week and on Wednesday morning received a call from my son, Jordan. He and his wife, Tali, have three young boys, and they’re currently living with us as Jordan attends the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s College.
“Dad, do you have a few minutes?” he asked. I wasn’t expecting what he said next.
“We had to take Jack to the hospital last night. The doctors say he has cancer.”
I had one of those moments when the world seems to stop and you wonder if this is really happening. Suddenly, the future looked very different.
Tests revealed that 2 year old Jack has leukemia. By God’s grace, it’s the “best” kind of leukemia to get, with a recovery rate of over 90%. Still, if everything goes well it will be at least three years until we’re able to say that Jack is fully recovered. And there’s always that 5-10% who never recover.
I was scheduled to lead the singing in our church this past Sunday morning and the songs had already been chosen. The focus was the Father’s personal, particular, and passionate love for those he has chosen from before the foundations of the earth and adopted in Jesus Christ. Here’s the list:
I guess I could have struggled with the apparent dichotomy between my circumstances and the songs we were singing. Or ignored what my family was going through altogether and pretended that nothing was wrong. Or complained about how hard life is sometimes.
By God’s grace, I actually drew great comfort from God through the truths we sang. So after the first song, which is based on Psalm 150, I shared a few thoughts not only for the church, but for my own soul.
In Scripture, God never gives us the command to praise him without giving us reasons to do so. In Psalm 150 we’re told to praise God for his mighty deeds and his excellent greatness. We see the same thing in Psalm 103, where David tells us to bless the Lord and then gives us multiple reasons why. Here’s what he says:
Psa. 103:1 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
As those who have reconciled to God through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, we have an infinite number of reasons to praise God. I don’t know what you were thinking when you came in this morning, whether you’ve been wondering if God knows the trials you’re facing, or is even aware of your existence. I do know that thoughts like that won’t lead us to praise the Lord. But his Word tells us that “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
God isn’t “out there somewhere.” Because of Jesus, we praise a loving Father who knows our frame, who knows the trials we’re facing, and is working things out for our good and his glory. He is the God who will not deal with us according to our sins and has taken our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west. He is the one who heals all our diseases and redeems our life from the pit. How can we not praise him?!
So here’s the point. We don’t lead others out of a vacuum or a sanitized form of Christianity that bears no resemblance to normal life. It’s important that we take time to grieve, acknowledge pain, and confess our struggles. But when, not if, you find yourself leading out of weakness, challenges, and trials, don’t minimize what’s going on or succumb in despair to your burdens. Lift your eyes, even as you lift the eyes of others, to the Father whose compassions never fail and to the Savior whose mercies are new every morning.
Whether God changes our trials, or more importantly, changes us through our trials, we praise him now in joyful anticipation of the day he will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4).
PS We found out that because Jack is responding so well to the chemo treatments, he’s coming home today. God is good.