Wednesday, February 04, 2015

A lesson in praising god during hard times

I have been using the workbook, 'Connecting With God: A Spiritual Formation Guide' for my devotions lately. My work has been slow, so I've been doing it there. I am able to read through it slowly and think on things as I do them. I like this whole series of guides.

The other day I did chapter 6: 'Perceiving God in Circumstances.' They used the biblical story of Joseph from Genesis 45 and 50. They also shared from Catherine Marshall's book Something More. I'm just going to include what they had word for word. I will put her words in bold type and their words in regular. This is from the workbook:
In Something More, Catherine Marshall writes about a struggle many of us share: trying to reconcile a great tragedy, such as sickness or death, with our belief that God is somehow with us in everything that happens. When her husband, Peter Marshall, a well-known Christian who had served as the chaplain of the U.S. Senate, died of a coronary occlusion at age 46, it threw her faith into turmoil. She could not believe it was God's will for such a thing to happen. When she was finally to ask God what to do next, she...

"...was taught one of the greatest lessons any of us can ever learn... Sin is in the world. And sin is 'missing the mark,' missing God's perfect plan. There is so much of this missing the mark that it is going to impinge on every person's life at some points.

If God left us with only this, real happiness or victory in this life would be an impossible mirage. But the Gospel truly is good news. The news is that there is no situation -- no breakage, no loss, no grief, no sin, no mess -- so dreadful that out of it God cannot bring good, total good, not just 'spiritual' good, if we will allow him to."

After more soul-searching, Marshall felt God tell her that the key was to relinquish all to him and then to praise him for every circumstance, no matter how tragic. It wasn't easy, but the results of her very first attempt serve as a lesson for all of us.

"I began to praise that first time hesitatingly, woodenly: 'Lord, I think I'll begin with the small irritations first - that truck driver demolishing the mailbox. Surely, I'm not supposed to thank You for that! I can see, Lord, as I talk to You that the mailbox is of no consequence. Looking at You puts petty problems into perspective in a hurry. I can feel Your humor that I took it so seriously. So thank You, Lord, for perspective. Thank You for humor. Thank You for You.

As I persisted down the list, another instruction was given. 'Now write down every situation in your life that seems less than good, that you would like to see changed.'

That wasn't hard. I went inside to get my red notebook and a pen and proceeded to fill five pages. But what came next was hard: 'I want you to go down the list and praise Me for every item.'

'Lord, I can see praising You for bringing good out of all these things, but I still don't understand how I can praise You for the bad things. Doesn't that make You the Author of Evil?'

'I am Lord over all -- good and evil. You start praising. I'll supply the understanding.'

Step by hesitant step, I was being led on an exciting spiritual adventure.

Hmm... Well, it should be innaresting. God works in mysterious ways, so... what have we got to lose? Sometimes what seems the toughest, or least logical, actually turns out to be just what we needed in the first place. I think. I hope.