To the arrogant I say, “Boast no more,”
and to the wicked, “Do not lift up your horns.
Do not lift your horns against heaven;
do not speak with outstretched neck.”
No one from the east or the west
or from the desert can exalt a man.
But it is God who judges:
He brings one down, he exalts another.
In the hand of the Lord is a cup
full of foaming wine mixed with spices;
he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth
drink it down to its very dregs.
As for me, I will declare this forever;
I will sing praise to the God of Jacob.
God is the Almighty Judge who brings one person down while exalting another with purposes and timing that only He understands. His creatures may respond to His mysterious ways with bitterness, indifference, or praise. Given these alternatives, I choose praise.
Puritan pastor Richard Baxter wrote, “Resolve to spend most of your time in thanksgiving and praising God. If you cannot do it with the joy that you should, yet do it as you can.… Doing it as you can is the way to be able to do it better. Thanksgiving stirreth up thankfulness in the heart.”
Baxter is right—expressing praise and gratitude makes a grateful heart. Gratitude is a perspective-shaping habit, especially in difficult times.
Charles Spurgeon wrote, “I venture to say that the greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the possible exception of sickness.… If some men that I know of could only be favoured with a month of rheumatism, it would, by God’s grace, mellow them marvelously.”
Though he sought to avoid suffering, Spurgeon said, “I am afraid that all the grace that I have got of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable.… Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house. It is the best book in a minister’s library.”
You may think, I refuse to accept that suffering can prove worthwhile. But your rejection of God’s goodness will not make you better or happier; it will only bring resentment and greater pain. Accept health as God’s blessing and its absence as God’s severe mercy. Samuel Rutherford wrote these profound words in the seventeenth century:
If God had told me some time ago that he was about to make me as happy as I could be in this world, and then had told me that he should begin by crippling me in arm or limb, and removing me from all my usual sources of enjoyment, I should have thought it a very strange mode of accomplishing his purpose. And yet, how is his wisdom manifest even in this! For if you should see a man shut up in a closed room, idolizing a set of lamps and rejoicing in their light, and you wished to make him truly happy, you would begin by blowing out all his lamps; and then throw open the shutters to let in the light of heaven.
Father, when we like what is happening, gratitude comes more naturally, though even then we take far too much for granted. But when we do not understand your purposes, praise is an act of humble submission learned only through the experience of trials. Given the alternatives of bitterness, indifference, and praise, may we always choose to praise you. For whether or not we see your hand in all that is happening to us, you remain worthy of our praise. Someday, in retrospect, we, your children, will wonder how we ever could have doubted, how we ever could have failed to speak your praises. Give us today the same perspective we’ll have one minute after we die.
Excerpted from Randy’s book 90 Days of God’s Goodness.
Photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash