Have you ever felt that your life is like an ongoing sound check? You know: Testing, testing… Just when you think you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you discover it’s an oncoming train. Or you face yet another obstacle or are forced to endure one more hardship. I recently read a humorous spin on this, called “you know it’s going to be a bad day when…” Perhaps some of you can relate.
• You see a 20/20 news team in your office
• You call suicide prevention hotline, and they put you on hold.
• You turn on the news, and they’re showing emergency routes out of the city.
• Your car horn goes off accidentally and remains stuck as you follow a group of Hell’s Angels on the freeway.
• Your boss tells you not to bother to take off your coat.
• Your income tax check bounces.
• The timer on your coffee maker is set to brew at 8:00 a.m. and you forgot to put the coffee pot in the dispenser.
• You put both contact lenses in the same eye.
• You spend ten minutes looking for something you’re already wearing.
• Your twin sister forgot your birthday.
OK, so chances are that none of those things is in your immediate future, but what about others, such as
• You are 23, and despite a commitment to Christ, the earnest prayers of hundreds for your healing, and the love and support of a wonderful family, you succumb to cancer (a young friend who recently lost the battle, but won the war)
• You remain unemployed after months, if not years, of seeking work
• Your home feels increasingly unsafe due to emotional or physical abuse
• Your childhood innocence was shattered by sexual abuse
• One of your parents abandoned you just when you needed them most
• You are drowning in debt and see no way of escape
• You are facing retirement with uncertainty and financial instability
Whatever it is, we sometimes conclude that God is testing us. And that’s if we’re even willing to believe there might be a redemptive purpose in what we’re going through. But if we’re honest, the thoughts that occupy our minds during such times often sound more like this: Where are you, God? Are you on a break? What about all your promises? (We may even defiantly quote scriptures.) You know, like those listed in Psalm 27:
For in the day of trouble, he will keep me safe in his dwelling
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.
Essentially, we the created ones, put God on trial. We demand answers. Like Jerry McGuire, we may say we want the truth, to which God often replies, “Your 3½ lbs of brain can’t handle the truth. You’re just going to have to trust me on this one.”
So why did the Psalmist write “when trouble comes…he will keep you safe”? Sounds pretty straight-forward to me. I don’t pretend to understand God in all of these circumstances, but he has clearly stated in His word that my ways are not His ways, my thoughts His thoughts (Isaiah 55:8,9). And He pointedly doesn’t just declare His thoughts and ways to be different…He says that they are HIGHER. Like, exponentially higher. They ultimately lift us up! That is encouraging!
In the same way, the writer to the Hebrews says in chapter 11 that faith is ‘the conviction of things not seen.’ Not clear. It is not faith if God can be figured out by using our mind and senses alone. It involves a trust leap. Continuing in Psalm 27, David reminds us of the need for tenacity in our faith.
My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, LORD, I will seek.
Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.
I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
I find myself as I write this in just one of these places. It may be a “wait and see” moment…or a “trust and obey” time. The jury is still out. As a worship leader, singer and teacher, much of what I do comes from the ability to use my voice properly. Five days ago, I had a polyp removed from one of my vocal cords. I have not been able to talk, sing, or even whisper since then. The doc says if I behave and don’t abuse it, I should be back to good as new soon. But since then, I’ve heard horror stories from other singers who claim their voice was never the same after similar surgery. (Reminds me of the old joke about the guy who asks his doctor, “Hey Doc, after my shoulder surgery, will I be able to play the violin?” to which the doctor replies, “I don’t see why not.” The patient exclaims, “That’s amazing, ‘cause I never could before.”)
For me, just going several days with limited ability to communicate has caused me to ask God questions. What are you trying to teach me here? Do I depend too much on what I say to others and not enough on what I do for them. How many other precious gifts do I possess which I take completely for granted? And, how much must you love me to put up with such childish whining (in my spirit, remember—I can’t talk!)?
Ultimately, where I want to live is not only trusting in the God of the Happy Endings. Rather, I want the assurance and conviction of the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk, who concluded:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.
Indeed, his ways are higher than mine. For whatever I am facing right now, I can trust Him. After all, it is never His intention to let us drag Him down to where we are, limited by our finite bodies and brains. Rather, He would use His limitless resources and bountiful grace to lift us up to where He is, enabling us to tread on the heights where angels attend Him. Believe me, friends, there are worse things to hear from one’s God than “testing, testing.” In just such times, may our response be “trusting, trusting.”