Primarily, God speaks to us through His Word, but the Lord will also use circumstances, other people and often the hymns we sing. I can be quite dialled in to hymn lyrics and the truths they proclaim (as opposed to seeking an emotional experience) during worship, and they often have an impact on me; God will use whatever will get your attention.
On the way to church I was saying to my wife that I was getting weary of talking about how exhausted I am when people ask how I’m doing. My problem is that I find it very difficult not to be honest; they did ask after all: I suffer with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and being tired and feeling unwell most of the time comes with the territory. I was making great strides – in small steps – in my recovery, until my recent house move knocked me back what feels like a year. It seems that by the time Sunday morning comes around each week it all catches up with me. However, telling people how unwell I feel is not always a great start to new relationships. Don’t get me wrong, conversations are not exclusively ‘woe is me’, but it comes up, because I feel it is self evident that I must look unwell – which is strange considering it is more or less an invisible illness – so I try to explain how it is for me.
My good wife, always full of great advice (which I would do well to follow from time to time), suggested that I say something like, “Isn’t God good!” Or, “God is still on the throne!” My problem is that these things seem insincere and trite, and perhaps a little dishonest from the perspective of how I feel, since I don’t really feel like that. Is it just me that finds it annoying when people always have something positive, scriptural and true to say to their life’s genuine woes?! It’s like they are in denial. But, I was to be caught up short and reminded of a few home-truths in my seemingly wrong thinking very soon; after all, objective truths about God are not affected by how I subjectively feel.
The service commenced and as soon as the first hymn/song was announced I began to well up. We started to sing, and in that way that happens on occasion – your life, your feelings and the moment collide and collude to hit you where you’re at – followed by a time of mixed emotions…
Blessed Be Your nameBlessed Be Your Name lyrics © Thank You Music Ltd.
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name
Oh dear! But there was more:
Blessed be Your nameBlessed Be Your Name lyrics © Thank You Music Ltd.
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name
Ouch! We are to bless the Lord, even in the midst of suffering. I needed this reminder. I’ve been feeling so frustrated with my limitations, forgetting that I am only human, and that in fact, I am profoundly unwell (although recovering). But, nevertheless I am to:
“…bless the LORD at all times;Psalm 34:1
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
We bless the Lord at all times, because at all times God is immutable; unchanging; absolute – nothing in my life changes that – not the weather, not my circumstances, wether things go the way I want them to or don’t, not anything; God is. Then the next hymn appeared on the screen, and yes, I welled up all over again; the Lord is working in my heart today it seems…
No burden on my back too hard to bearHoly Overshadowing lyrics © Make Way Music
Only the easy load You bid me wear
Until these troubles pass, my heart will sing
Praise for the holy overshadowing
Underneath Your wings, overshadowing
Until these troubles pass…
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”2 Corinthians 4:17-18
You are my shield, and my gloryHoly Overshadowing lyrics © Make Way Music
You are the lifter of my head
And though the storms may rage around me
I’ll be safe within
Beneath the holy overshadowing
It turns out, so I am reminded, that it isn’t just all on me to praise the Lord at all times despite how I feel (perhaps to curry favour or feel good or some such), recognising His unchanging nature, but we are also safe under His protection and comfort; we are overshadowed by His metaphorical wings while we go through what we go through – and continue to praise Him while we do; He is certainly worthy of it.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most HighPsalm 91:1-2
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
It is true that when we go through tough times we often don’t feel the Lord’s presence with us. Does this mean He isn’t with us? Of course not as He has promised to always be with us (Hebrews 13:5; Joshua 1:9; Deuteronomy 31:6; Matthew 28:20). Thank God that the Post-Modern concept of subjective reality is not true: having to rely upon how we feel about ourselves on a day to day basis would be a disaster – not to mention exhausting. I don’t know about you, but my feelings are unreliable. And so we are to rely not upon our feelings, but tether ourselves to the certainty of God’s reliable, unchanging nature; a steadfast and sure anchor, in the rock which is Christ.
When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
My anchor holds within the veil
Christ aloneCornerstone lyrics © Hillsong Music Publishing Uk, Hillsong
Weak made strong
In the Saviour’s love
Through the storm
He is Lord
Lord of all
And so, sheltered beneath His wings, anchored to Christ and trusting in His unchanging promises, we praise the Lord at all times. It is truly amazing to think that through all this weakness and frailty and suffering on our part, God is able to use us while making us stronger; we grow through adversity as each human failure is a boulder upon which we become more reliant on God and not on ourselves. We must seek to always look to Jesus and not to our circumstances.
Is there value in speaking a positive Biblical truth instead of reiterating yet again how tough life is? Absolutely there is. For one thing it shows how you are anchored into God and for another is a constant reminder to yourself and a witness to others that we are not self-reliant, but trusting in our Heavenly Father.
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Read My Story
Hi PaulThank you for your 2 emails which seem to be linked. We all go through difficult times so I am sure you have blessed and helped many people with your writing these. I too have felt so low I contemplated taking my life. Living alone, I may not have a decent conversation or fellowship from one week to another. It was a blow not to move near Ellie but it’s was a gamble between loneliness and eventuall abject poverty ð¤ At least I’m lonely in comfort. Getting outdoors helps. Exercise helps but when you have fatigue like you it’s not easy! I did wonder if your home move would impact your health. I pray you are getting stronger…… ðð Love to you and Karen Liz Sent from my Huawei phone
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Thank you for your kind words. I’ve never actually felt suicidal, and I think it is because deep down I was always clinging to the rock, sometimes by my fingernails, but He was always there. That’s an objective truth reality we can believe in; a hope worth living for… x
It is good and faith to know rather than feel. Thank you for sharing your struggles. I also suffer, but God is the lifter up of my head. I will walk on my high places…💛
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If we had relied upon our feelings, we might have given up long ago. I don’t know how anyone can cope with life, let alone suffering, without something more solid than ourselves to rely upon; even the best of friends are not a reliable source for all our hopes and needs, as much of a wonderful gift as they are to us…
Thank you for engaging.