“The deeper our troubles, the louder our thanks to God, who has led us through all, and preserved us until now. Our griefs cannot mar the melody of our praise, we reckon them to be the bass part of our life's song, "He hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad."” (Charles Spurgeon)
With words like "paralysis" and "death" still ringing in my ears, I sat in my car alone that afternoon. The appointment that day was supposed to be just like all the other spine checks I’d had before it, which were never very good, but never quite this bad. This was a new diagnosis, and these were new words I hadn't heard thus far on a lifelong rollercoaster ride with a rare, degenerative skeletal disease. So I held back the tears in the office, even as the doctor looked at me with pity and gave me the "live your life while you still can" speech. I kept my very well-rehearsed brave-face on as I walked down the hall and past reception, and even managed a smile when they said "have a good day" as I stepped onto the elevator. I made it all the way to the driver’s seat before the dam burst and tears began to fall. My husband was already texting to ask how the appointment went. But before I could answer him, I had to talk to Someone else – the One who had been with me on this journey since my first breath and the only One in whom all my hope and strength could be found (Psalm 73:25-26).
Let the King of my heart
Be the mountain where I run
The fountain I drink from
Oh, He is my song
Let the King of my heart
Be the shadow where I hide
The ransom for my life
Oh, He is my song
You are good...
You’re never gonna let me down…
In the months that followed that appointment, this song was an anthem that found its way across my lips many times as I pressed into Jesus for strength and joy in the face of this new trial in our lives. My heart clung to these truths with hopeful assurance and overflowed into worship for the King who was leading us through it all with cords of lovingkindness. I leaned into the Lord not because I needed Him to prove something new to me by changing my circumstances or healing my body (though He could certainly do those things), but because of who I already knew God to be as the faithful Shepherd of my life and what has been revealed about Him through Creation and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When the storms break in upon our lives and the waters rise, where do we find refuge? When our bodies break and each breath brings a new wave of pain to bear, how can we lift our voices and actually sing to the King?One of the great tests of suffering is moving beyond our petitions for change into a place where we trust God with our lives regardless of our circumstances. If we can see past the temporal and believe that His eternal goodness is real and unchanging (2 Cor 4:16-18), then we can truly abandon ourselves in the refuge of His embrace and worship Jesus as the King of our hearts (and of everything).
How do we know that God is good and worthy of our trust? Go to the Word with the help of the Holy Spirit. Testimony after testimony in Scripture speaks of a God who is slow to anger, full of mercy, and abounding in love (Ex 34:6; Psalms 36:5-7, 100:5, 136:1-3, 145:7-12). To further reveal the depths of His love and riches of His glory, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-3, 14). The message of God’s heart literally put on skin and walked around on the earth He created, revealing the true character and personality of God up close and in person (1 John 1:1-3). If that wasn't extravagant enough, His journey through time and space ended at Calvary where Jesus died a bloody death upon a criminal's cross so that you and I might live and be with Him forever.What more does Jesus have to do to prove His goodness and worth (1 John 4:9)? God is good, He is faithful, and His glory will never disappoint us in the end.
Satan had a plan with Job. He was convinced that if everything good in Job’s life were stripped from him, Job would surely curse God to His face. And say what you will about Job’s perseverance, I don’t think that Satan’s mistake was underestimating Job. His biggest mistake was belittling the glory and goodness of God Himself. Job had a lot of questions in his conversations with friends, but He seemed pretty sure of the one thing that really mattered. He said it all the way back in chapter 1 when he fell down and worshipped right after finding out that his children had all died in a freak storm:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:18-22)
Thousands of years later in the city of Philippi, we stumble upon two more men trusting and worshipping in the face of incredible suffering. In Acts 16, Paul and Silas are falsely accused, beaten repeatedly with rods, thrown into a prison cell, and their feet bound with chains. They had every reason to panic and yield to all the fears and accusations of the temporal that so easily blind us from what is eternal. But that’s not what happened. Paul had come face to face with the glory of God in the face of Christ (Acts 8:3-6; 2 Cor 4:6), and Silas was so convinced of the worth of Jesus that he had set out with Paul to preach His name despite the promise of affliction (Acts 8:16, 15:40). And so into the middle of the night, these two men prayed, worshipped, and sang songs to Jesus, while the prisoners and the jailer listened and marveled (Acts 16:25-29).
“Paul, when grown old, sitting grey-haired, shivering in a dungeon in Rome, could say with greater emphasis than we can, "I know whom I have believed," for each experience had been like the climbing of a hill, each trial had been like ascending another summit, and his death seemed like gaining the top of the mountain, from which he could see the whole of the faithfulness and the love of Him to whom he had committed his soul.” (Charles Spurgeon)
When 'the night is holding on' to us, there is only one Way and one Light to guide us home (John 14:6, 8:12). When we turn our eyes to Jesus and behold the light of God in the face of our King, we are transformed from strength to strength and glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18, 4:6; Psalm 84:5-7). He is the mountain we run to in times of trouble and the fountain of living water we drink from in the desert. When our hope is set as an anchor in the Person of Jesus Christ, we can lift our hands and sing, just like Paul and Silas in that prison cell. When we see that His love is sure and His worth is matchless, all that’s left for us is to fall to our knees and worship.
Some of life’s holiest moments come through our exaltation of Jesus in the midst of suffering. These are the moments when our souls stretch far beyond what is seen, beyond the circumstances that cloud our view from what is true and lasting, and reach with the gaze of faith into the heavens where a good and faithful King sits upon the throne (2 Cor 4:17-18; Rev 4). The Lamb slain from the foundations of the earth is worthy to take the scroll of the ages and reign over all the nations and all of time (Rev 5:1-10), and He is worthy to rule and reign over our hearts. His love is proven, His mercy endures, and His goodness is the banner over our sojourn through the shadowlands of this age. Jesus has nothing more to prove. This is what Job discovered in his darkest hours and what Paul knew in his countless afflictions. When everything around us is shaken, only Jesus remains. And so, we trust, we abide, and we worship the God who never disappoints and trust the Love that never fails.
Jesus is the King of our hearts and all of our affections belong to Him. We know that He will never disappoint us because His great faithfulness is written across the skies with every sunrise. The unfailing love of God was forever recorded in the scrolls of history when God became flesh, stretched His arms wide across the beams of a dirty wooden Cross, and paid a debt that was not His to pay. God is good, and His mercy endures forever. Turn your eyes to Jesus. Lift your hands and sing your songs to the King. And trust that He will never, ever let you down.
Indeed, none who wait for You shall be put to shame... (Psalm 25:3)