Tuesday, August 09, 2016

God Gives and Takes Away

Butterfly House in Whitehouse, Ohio

I was on the worship team for a conference. Matt Redman's new song at the time was "Blessed Be Your Name."

One of the conference speakers was a positive thinking "prosperity" teacher. The evening he was to speak he came to the worship team and said: "I want you to sing 'Blessed Be Your Name'" after I preach. But I don't want you to sing the line that says 'You give and take away.'"

It was the "take away" part that he didn't like. It was too negative. It was, as I saw it, too biblical for him. He didn't understand gratitude.

Henri Nouwen writes:

"Gratitude in its deepest sense means to live life as a gift to be received gratefully. But gratitude as the gospel speaks about it embraces all of life: the good and the bad, the joyful and the painful, the holy and the not so holy." (Nouwen, A Spirituality of Living, p. 34)

True gratitude is a heart that sees God whether things are cool or things are difficult. Nouwen says:

"The call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment of our life can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads us to new life. Can we be grateful for everything that has happened in our life—not just the good things but for all that has brought us to today?" (Ib., 34-35)

God gives, and God takes away. God is sovereign. And to be blessed and honored in all things. Our culture's happiness preachers create unbreachable divides between good and bad, sorrow and joy. This situation, reasons Nouwen, leaves only the option of resentment when badness and sorrow happen. This robs us of the possibility of dancing in the arena of mourning.

Is this unreal? Not at all. It is the core of a Jesus-follower's faith, and called The Cross.

God gives and takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

You can read about praying in the midst of loss in my new book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.