We all face hard times sooner or later, and they can seem unbearable and never-ending.
One of the crucial questions we face then is, “Can we still praise God when life is hard?”
“Yes!” exclaim Matt and Beth Redman who wrote the song “Blessed Be Your Name.”
With numerous references to the Psalms of lament, the Redmans show that worship is a choice, based on who God is, not on our life’s circumstances.
Modern Christian praise music doesn’t say much about suffering, which is one of the reasons the Redmans wrote their popular song. They became convinced that the church needs lament music for times of communal sorrow and also to identify with those who are suffering. The church needs to learn, again, to be honest about suffering in a biblical way.
Finding God in the Hard Times, earlier published as Blessed Be Your Name, “provides the reader with the tools for lament—how to mourn in the presence of God. The book is, in effect, a framework of Christian thinking to help us filter and view life’s pain.” The Redmans want to show, in their song and in this little book, that, “come pain or joy, to worship God is always the best decision to make.”
You see, the enemy tries to use bad circumstances to contradict the goodness of God in our minds and hearts. Sometimes we live in a deep tension between what we know about God’s goodness and the pain and horror that seems to contradict it. When the enemy tempts us to doubt the goodness of God, the solution is to open the Bible and read, to study what it says about His faithfulness, and to cling desperately to him.
In five short chapters we learn about the choice Christians can—and must—make, to praise God even in hard circumstances, just as Jeremiah did in Lamentations and as David did in Psalm 13. We must encourage ourselves as David did in Psalms 42 and 43:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
The New Testament, too, discusses suffering extensively, again with an undercurrent of hope. Although we will not always understand the meaning of our suffering, we do need to realize that God uses it in our lives to teach and train us. Without understanding the ‘why’, we can still turn to God, in both song and prayer.
Strangely enough, we not only have difficulty praising God when life is hard. Many of us also tend to forget him when things go well! This should not be. Instead our lives should overflow with gratitude, and that, too, is a heart attitude that requires training and discipline. We must learn to recognize and respond to the many kindnesses, small and great, that God pours upon us. The Redmans guide us in this as well.
Really, what it all comes down to, the Redmans remind us, is recognizing God’s sovereignty. If God does truly love us and if he is powerful enough to shape our lives for our good and his glory, praise during hard times begins to make sense. Somehow, in ways that we, like Job, cannot understand, it is all good. And thus we can praise God because of who he is no matter what is happening in our lives.
This little book contains questions for reflection, a discussion guide for small groups, and a complete list of Bible references, printed out, that were used in the book. The authors say, “We hope these verses will propel you to further study, and to worship.” That, to me, sums up their goal in this entire book.
Finding God in the Hard Times will bring comfort and clarity to those who read it and even more to those who use it as an impetus to turn to the Bible. For, especially in hard times, we cannot be reminded too often to turn to God and his Word. This book is that kind of a reminder, summarizing aspects of the Bible, encouraging us to read it more, and reminding us that God is with us. Recommended.
Related Resources (not mentioned in Finding God in the Hard Times):
The Heidelberg Catechism, one of the greatest confessions of Reformation times is devoted to answering the question: What is your only comfort in life and death? This topic is explored in question and answer format in a themed guide to the Bible. I highly recommend it to help you make sense of the hard times, the good times, and the meaning of it all.
A few weeks after I read this book, I was at a service where the Redman’s song “Blessed Be Your Name” was sung. It was moving, indeed, but I still prefer the Psalms themselves. Our congregation uses the beautiful words found in the New Genevan Psalter, and there are many other sung versions of the Psalms, including some of our greatest hymns (e.g. those by Isaac Watts, or Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” based on Psalm 46).
For training in gratitude, even in hard times, see One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp (link to my review). You will discover that learning to notice and be grateful for good things leads to acceptance and even joy.
If, in your hard times, you are struggling with a victim’s attitude, this review of Mindsight by Siegel may encourage you.
Note: The above review links to some articles I wrote while struggling to make sense of suffering.
For more encouragement see Raising Homemakers, Titus 2 Tuesday, Tell it to Me Tuesday, Finishing Strong, and Trivium Tuesdays.
Disclosure: I received a review copy from Graf Martin and Bethany House and, as usual, am not compensated for this review.