In her devotional One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp writes, “Music is made in stress. A string pulled tight, it has to be plucked, it has to be stressed. Moved from its comfortable, resting position.”
How willing are we to let God move us from our comfortable, resting position? Sometimes that means going through something very stressful, painful, humiliating, or downright terrifying. You might be wondering how God can expect anything lovely to come from that. But we tend to forget that He is the Master. What we call lovely He might regard as prideful. What we perceive as pleasant He might see as slothful.
The only way we can begin to see our lives through His eyes is by getting to know Him. He expresses His heart to us in His word, the Holy Bible. Some of the things He reveals about Himself are surprising; but with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can learn to trust the Lord God Almighty no matter how much difficulty comes our way.
In the book of Job, we read a conversation in which Satan tells God that a righteous man will stop loving God if everything he has is suddently taken from him. God grants the devil permission to bring misery into Job’s life. On the surface, this seems cruel. But God sees the end just as clearly as the beginning. He already had Job’s final chapter written before giving Satan that green light to begin wreaking havoc on the man’s life.
“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away,” Job said after learning that his children were all killed in a great wind. “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
How many of us would be willing to say those words if we were to receive the news that all of our children had been killed when a tornado struck the school they were in? Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Before leaving the comfort of heaven, Jesus knew how His life on earth would end. But He came anyway. Why? Because He wanted to have fellowship with us, and the only way that could happen was if sin was dealt with once and forever.
Isaiah 59:4 describes our condition as a result of sin. “No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity.” We say good things, but there is evil in our hearts. We don’t want to admit it, but sin is present in the life of every human being. The good news is that Christ came to earth to serve as the supreme Sacrificial Lamb so that all who receive Him in faith will be forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness.
Job’s faith in God declared him righteous. Contrary to what his friends believed, Job was not being punished. God was using him as an example. An instrument of truth.
Are we willing to allow God to use us as an example? Are we prepared to serve as an instrument of truth? What would we say if we lost everything? After losing his children, his home, his source of income, and his health, his wife told him to “curse God and die!” She hated seeing her husband suffer, but Job held fast to what he knew was true. God was good. And although what He was allowing to happen was beyond Job’s comprehension, Job knew that there was a purpose behind the grief.
“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and have not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 2:10-12).
How many of us can lay claim to that? “I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.” Do we truly delight ourselves in Him as David admonishes us in Psalm 37:4? Do we feed on His faithfulness?
There are so many things that entice us away from God. The devil is constantly looking for opportunities to distract us in our pursuit of holiness. In 1 Corinthians 6:12, the apostle Paul tells us, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” We are not naturally strong; we require God’s help in resisting Satan’s attacks.
Sadly, many of those attacks are so subtle we don’t even realize we’re being attacked. The enemy knows our weak spots and is deviously clever in the ways he lures us away from God. Do you know how experts are able to recognize counterfeit currency? By studying the genuine article. Likewise, the only way we can see something as evil is by saturating our minds and hearts with what is good. We must choose our friends prayerfully and devote a portion of each day to the reading of God’s word. Daily devotions and fellowship with other Christians are essential tools in standing firm against satanic forces.
There will be times when God will choose to allow severe challenges into our lives so that we will flex our spiritual muscles and grow stronger. Don’t worry, He knows just how much weight we’re able to bear; He will never overload us. We have His word on it (1 Cor. 10:13).
If you are presently comfortable and trouble-free, you might need to take inventory of your life. Perhaps the enemy is not bothering with you because you pose no threat to him. If that’s the case, you are either not in fellowship with God or you have no relationship with Him at all. There is no such thing as a comfortable, restful life for a child of God. That is not the way He intended us to live. If everything came easily for us, how many times a day would we bother to call upon Him?
When He tightens our strings, it’s not because He takes fiendish delight in watching us suffer. He loves us dearly and longs to hear the beautiful melody that He knows we are capable of making. But when our strings are loose and our lives are devoid of stress, to what are we able to testify? I made a nice little life for myself! I found a really good job and worked my way up the ladder so that I could acquire all these impressive things and make others green with envy! Don’t you wish you could be me? Is that the kind of story people want to hear from us when they’re in the midst of financial hardship or declining health? No, of course not. They need to hear stories about how people learned to rely upon God for their strength and learned to release their unforgiveness so that their prayers were no longer hindered.
Our testimonies are music to God’s ears. Can you imagine what it must be like for Him to intevene in our lives and rescue us from the pit only to hear us say, “Well, it was tough, but I pulled myself up and found a way to put my life back together. I used my brain and figured things out on my own!” This kind of talk is nothing but a clanging cymbal in God’s ears.
1 Peter 3:5-6 says, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” To humble ourselves means to admit that we need His help. Every time we encounter trouble, we need to turn to Him and seek His wisdom, His strength, His compassion. “For without me,” Jesus tells us in John 15:5, “you can do nothing.”
An attitude of gratitude is essential if we want to make music for God. Let’s start each day by thanking Him for His watchful care over us. Maybe the bed or cot we’re lying on is not comfortable and maybe the food being served doesn’t taste good. Perhaps the person we’re working for is impatient and demanding. But there is a bed for us. There is food for us. And there is a job for us. Let’s thank Him for what we do have and trust Him to make things better in time. What He asks of us is to “Wait on the Lord and be of good courage, and He will strengthen your heart. Wait I say on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14)
He longs to hear beautiful music of praise and worship coming from us; but if our strings are loose, nothing lovely will come from us. Tension is necessary. Let’s learn to see it as something good, something that God is using to help us grow and mature in faith. Then, like Job, the tests will seem less like punishment and more like demonstrations of His power, His wisdom, and His steadfast love for us. “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.”