"Choosing" To Say "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord"

I hope I can accurately express my heart on this, and I hope that it will come through your computer screen as I intend it. What I have to say is not an easy subject to broach, and I recognize the delicacy of emotions involved.

We, as humans, have always had tragedy, from the "first couple" (no, not the Bushes-- I mean Adam and Eve) until now. One of their sons murdered their other son. All of Noah's society was washed away. Mary's perfect son was brutally killed. Countless martyrs gave their lives. Ours is not a history of faith without tragedy. Throughout the history of mankind, millions of people at a time have been slaughtered in various times, places, and for various reasons... race, religion, political disagreements, fear, and bigotry.

And in each of our personal lives, we will have tragedy strike... it's one of those things we can count on. Parents divorce, children fall into sin, and terrible things like miscarriages, affairs, and the death of those that we love can happen to any one of us. Some or all of these have affected or will affect nearly every single Christian man and woman.

I have recently heard people express how difficult songs like "Blessed Be the Name of the Lord" are to sing in times of tragedy or personal grief and sorrow. And I can understand the difficulty of it, particularly if paired with an upbeat groove and a chipper, toothy-grinned singer. That would indeed be difficult to bear at a moment of personal sorrow or loss. But there is something deeper that I want to address... and that is this:

It is not in the moment of sorrow that we should decide how to respond to sorrow.

It is not in the moment of grief and tragedy that we should figure out how to work through it. We should be preparing NOW for those moments... reminding ourselves NOW that when tragedy comes, God will still be the same as He was yesterday, and the same as He will forever be. We should be preparing our heart to say, "Blessed be the name of the LORD" in those most difficult moments. Cause, frankly, it's easy to say "Blessed be the name of the LORD" when your bills are paid, and your kids are all cheerfully singing "kum-ba-ya" in a circle with their arms linked and then skipping off merrily to do their chores, and your husband or wife is lovingly looking at you with adoration, and outside, the rainbow is shining and the birds are sweetly chirping on your freshly bloomed rose bush.

It is when we have just had a miscarriage, or when we have just been given dreadful news, or when something tragic has happened that it becomes much more of a choice of the will and of our faith to say, "Blessed be the name of the LORD". Those dark times are what reveal where our faith really lies. I have to admit that personally, I really like one particular part of the song I referenced above... because I think the lyrics accurately express what has to happen in those moments of sorrow. Here's what they say:

You give and take away, You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, "Lord, blessed be Your name."

I believe it will, in those moments, be an act of our will and an act of our determined faith to say, "Blessed be Your name, LORD". At any other time, it is easy to say those words. Even when things are just steadily plugging along, it is a very simple thing for the Christian to bless the name of God. But it is in those dark moments that we must actively choose to say, "God, I will bless you, knowing that You gave and You took away."

Job did this very thing. Remember?
Now there was a day when [Job's] sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you."

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, "Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

We must choose this day how we will act on those days-- the days when we miscarry a precious baby, the days when we learn of the death of one we love, the days when we realize we are somewhere we never would have chosen to be, the days when something tragic happens. THOSE are the days when God will be honored when we choose to bless HIS name right in the middle of our sorrow and grief.


Brenda said...

Well said Jess. You are very right. I have been watching a newly widowed woman at our church during praise and worship time. She stops singing sometimes, but her hands remain raised and it is obvious she is still praising her Saviour. I would have expected nothing less from her. YOu are right, we have to decide now.

Samantha said...

Although you have a very good point, for me it is just the opposite. I find it easier to remember to lift up my live to my God in times of sorrow, easier to say that it was the will of God and everything happens for a reason and with a purpose. But when everything is all rainbows and smiles, with no thunderclouds on the horizon, or even in my mind, it is that much harder for me to remember to be thankfull, to know that the good things are in the grace of my God too, just like the sorrow is. When things go bad, I turn to my faith as if it were (and it is!) a lifesaver. But when things go well, it's easy to let faith slide, because 'you don't need it'. And while I acknowlegde that in times of sorrow it can be hard to think positive thoughts of God (because it's so easy to get angry, just like it is to get angry with a parent who forbids you something for your own good), it can also be a challenge to remember that the good comes from Him too, and that it is not all of your own making (there's that vanity and pride again).

Well, I hope that made as much sense to everybody else as it does to me.


Jeannine said...

Jess, I agree very much with what you wrote in this post. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. One of the books I have read and found really instructive was Jim Andrews' Polishing God's momuments: pillars of hope for punishing times. There is a review of this book by Tim Challiess on Discerning Reader or on his blog.

Terry said...

My dad used to say it like this: "The proper time to prepare for war is during times of peace." Your words are so eloquent, and they express perfectly the importance of personal worship and cultivating our relationship with God every day so that when hurts come, and they will, our spirits are ready to respond and not just our natural man.

Mr. & Mrs. L said...

Amen and amen.

I found my daughter dead in her bedroom years ago and for a long time could not sing "I Surrender All". I pray that your post will encourage it's readers to choose now - and not get stuck as some of us (who didn't know better at the time) did.

Thank you for sharing your insight!

Alicia said...

Very well put. It really is a choice in our hearts to continue to praise the Lord through trials. I love this song and the "Praise You in This Storm" song. Something just wells in my heart as I think about the words and know that I serve a God who is worthy of praise no matter what the circumstance. Knowing that he is with me and desires good for me even when I'm at my worst is so comforting.
I agree though too, with Samantha that sometimes it's hard to remember God when things are going well.

Jessica said...

I never really stopped to think about the words to that song until two years ago a young couple in my Sunday School class lost their 9 mo. in a car accident. I was almost full-term with my first son and very upset by the death. But their faith was so humbling to me because they said God is good when He gives and God is good when He takes away. They never wavered in their belief of God's sovereignty and were filled with His grace. This past weekend my Sunday school class suffered another loss of one of our children when a couple lost their 2 mo. to heart failure. Again, I found myself thinking, please Lord, not my children, not my husband... and again, I am hearing of His goodness at all times. He is enough for me. I pray that I will rejoice during all times because my Savior lives.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Samantha! How too often do I forget to be thankful when things are "going well." It's the hard times that I turn to God more often. This is a great reminder to praise God ALL the time!

Mandi, Sean, Peyton, Dylan and Parker said...

I posted about this earlier this summer as we marked the due date of both babies we won't meet this side of Heaven.

That song is a song that I love to sing when everything does seem right in my world as well as when I can't imagine how I'll make it through the pain because it puts the focus where it belongs.

My prayer has always been that if God sees fit to call one of my children home early, that He will give me strength to glorify Him in the midst of my pain.


Anonymous said...

Excellent topic. :)

It's all about faith, right? Faith that God is who He says He is, that He knows what is best for us, and that His will is divine.

Speaking only for myself, when I am facing a really hard issue or circumstance, I rely on my faith in God to see me through it.

It is definitely a *choice*. And one that is easier if made ahead of time.


mommakari said...

Thanks for your words. I just miscarried our third baby at 9 weeks along. Although it was hard, we did grieve because there was a baby, we know there is a bigger plan. No questions asked. God is in control.

Leigh Ann said...

Thank you for putting your thoughts down on this subject. I couldn't agree more.

When we found out we were expecting, we joyfully told everyone right away. I could see the wheels in some heads turning, "What if something happens?" Well, what if? It wouldn't be any less our God-given child. It wouldn't keep my heart from grieving any less. I would want my church & biological family to know so they could lift us up either way. And I wouldn't wonder about my reaction. How could I get all mad about God taking away what if His to begin with?

I don't go around worrying about "what if". I serve a good God Who does all things well. Even painful paths are good paths when following Jesus. He has a plan we can trust. What is faith if you can't trust in the "bad times", too?

Good post.

Mary at HSH said...

So true, Jess! We need to have a "plan" for when these things happen, otherwise, it's a live and learn falling down over and over again experience...I like to have 2 or 3 verses at the tip of my tongue for those tough tests...like Be anxious for nothing...or Rejoice in everything (really?? everything??). Also, when we choose to sing in the hard times, it's a "sacrifice of praise" a Biblical way of offering our praise to God, not because of what He's done for us, but because of WHO He is.

I love posts like this, and have posted similar ones on my blog...I think we must be kindred spirits! ;)

Leigh Ann said...

Ironically, the next blog I read was John Piper's & he was also talking about pain & suffering & why God takes us there. Great post! Go to http://www.desiringgod.org/

Hopefully that link will work for you. If not, just go to http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/ & look at the Dec. 5th post.

Kara said...

I could only think of one family as I read this post. A family that is and has been a living example of how to do this!

When I was a kid in Africa we had a "real" teacher come out for 2 years and teach us (and another family's kids). Marlo, my teacher, is now married, having 4 kids. For the past almost 3 years her youngest, Anna, and their family has battled Anna's liver cancer. Anna just went to be with Jesus last week. Marlo has a journal online that has been an example to all of us. She is honest and inspiring. If you'd like to read about their journey the link is: http://www.caringbridge.org/ok/annajane/

Also, I do understand what you are saying Samantha. I to have found my "trials" to be the times I am holding onto Jesus for dear life. And in the "easy" stretches its much more easier to think I have things under control.... BUT, I TOTALLY see that there are things that could happen where I would be struggling as Jess has brought up, situations... ex: if I had a child die as Marlo has. I was about to write that I have been "blessed" and have not had many tragic things happen in my life, but if, regardless, we are blessed maybe that's not so true. The purpose is for us to glorify God, not to have an "easy" life...

It is so freeing to say 'Blessed be the name of the Lord' in difficult times...

Ashlie said...

amen. with my one miscarriage, i remember sitting on the toilet (dh was away that evening) and making the conscious choice to raise my arms and sing worship songs. i did feel completely ridiculous :) singing on the toilet, but it was a powerful moment for me to "choose" to worship God in that moment (2nd miscarriage in a year) instead of "choosing" depressing over it happening yet again.

you know, sometimes, it's easier said than done, but i think if we at least make the effort, God will meet us halfway.

thank you so much for these thoughts.

Steph VG said...

A-men! Nancy Leigh DeMoss has used the example of a house in a power outage. She had recently moved into a new house, and after she got everything unpacked and had been living there for a while, the power went out at night and it was pitch black (I believe she lives in the country). She said the reason she was able to navigate so well to get to the closet for the flashlight and candles when the lights were off was because she got to know her house so well when the lights were on. Your post spoke so eloquently of choosing - we have a choice; we don't have to stumble around stubbing our toes and breaking our shins on unseen corners, even in the midst of immense grief.

John Piper just posted the following yesterday:

When huge pain comes into your life—like divorce, or the loss of a precious family member, or the dream of wholeness shattered—it is good to have a few things settled with God ahead of time. The reason for this is not because it makes grieving easy, but because it gives focus and boundaries for the pain.

Being confident in God does not make the pain less deep, but less broad. If some things are settled with God, there are boundaries around the field of pain. In fact, by being focused and bounded, the pain of loss may go deeper—as a river with banks runs deeper than a flood plain. But with God in his firm and proper place, the pain need not spread out into the endless spaces of ultimate meaning. This is a great blessing, though at the time it may simply feel no more tender than a brick wall. But what a precious wall it is!

from When Satan Hurts Christ's People, by John Piper

Jess said...

That is amazing to me that Piper just wrote about that too... course, my theology of suffering does owe a LOT to my attendance of Desiring God's "Suffering and the Sovereignty of God" conference that Doug & I attended the summer of 2006.

We had just had 2 miscarriages and were moving to a country with a great deal of persecution and knew we'd need to have a more biblically-informed view of suffering than what is generally taught in our churches. I'm so grateful for Piper's leadership and strong voice in teaching about suffering and pain and grief as part of the Christian path.

Thanks for sharing that, Steph! I'm always up for some Piper quotes! :)

Jess said...

Goodness, I mean the Fall of 2005, I'm so forgetful these days-- blame it on the pregnancy hormones. ;)

Jennifer said...

Great post Jess, I'm just getting to it now. I've had two miscarriages in the past year and struggling to be brave in my new pregnancy. I know how hard it is at these times. You captured it very well. Another piece of music that captures this feeling, particularly thinking of the Job passage, is Randall Thompson's Alleluia. I happened to perform it shortly after I lost my first baby, and I felt I understood it in a whole new way.