Worship 5: when times are tough
I have been struck recently by thinking again about a couple of unique moments in Scripture, as well as hearing about similar experiences from Christians today. The moments I refer to are times when a person of faith in a moment of extreme diversity and tension, chooses to take the action of worshiping in that moment.
There are two explicit instances that stand out to me of this kind of faith. One is Job, the man we associate perhaps most directly with suffering in the Old Testament, alongside maybe Jeremiah. But even more than that later prophet, Job’s one message is about suffering and how a person of faith endures through it. And one of the great keys to the whole book (at least as I see it) is this wonderful moment in chapter 1 where after Job receives all the terrible reports of what has befallen his family and his land, it tells us:
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, “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 1:20-21)
At this point in the game, the fact that Job will choose to fall and worship the Lord and bless His name – is surely a great demonstration of faith in the face of adversity. Who do we know in life who might be like this should they experience the same things?
It is significant to note that in this place of worshiping in the moment of extreme suffering, Scripture notes that
Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. (Job 1:22)
I believe this is the place that he obtained his victory which became manifest at the end of the book after much revelation, and the reward of a double blessing which outweighed the suffering.
The other individual that stands out to me is David. He is known of course as a worshiper anyway, but there is a moment people are perhaps less familiar with because it is blackened by his sin with Bathsheba. The consequences of his sin brought the judgment of God on the child that was born to them, who God said was to die. David cried out to the Lord to spare the child, but for whatever reason his request was not heeded and the child died.
It was a tragic and somewhat complex situation. I have heard arguments today about whether God was right to take the life of this child as a consequence of David’s own sin. While there are theological answers, I find it interesting that David raises no questions, and takes a different response to today’s theologians:
Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was still alive, we spoke to him and he did not listen to our voice. How then can we tell him that the child is dead, since he might do himself harm!” But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; so David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” And they said, “He is dead.” So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the LORD and worshiped. (2 Sam 12:18-20)
His actions probably would have surprised his servants, and would surprise us today. But again this attitude, this repentant action demonstrates a different spirit, a faith resident in the heart of David which was anchored in the supernatural – indeed he confessed faith in the afterlife when he said of the child “Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (v.23) And so he prioritised worship – blessing the name of the Lord, in a moment of difficulty.
There are examples of this kind of attitude that I have heard of today. A man who cradled the still-warm body of his wife who had just passed away, and began to worship the Lord in that moment. Bill Johnson who realised the privelege of the opportunity to worship the Lord for always being a good God in the moment when his father died of cancer – a moment he would never have in eternity. That’s a sacrifice of worship I think few people have been able to know how to make.
When Paul wrote that we should rejoice always, and in everything give thanks, he wasn’t kidding. It can be the hardest thing when you’re going through even the tiniest of trials, to turn your attention upon Jesus – and yet, people have done it, because when we step out in faith, it attracts the supernatural, because that kind of attitude is not of this earth, but is anchored in heaven where is our hope. Let’s be challenged to draw near to the Lord in every moment.