Blessing God in good times and bad.
With the approach of Carly’s surgery on April 29, I had to ask myself if I could truly sing the song “Blessed Be Your Name” (Beth and Matt Redman), a song frequently sung in Christian worship services. Anytime someone is put under general anesthesia there is risk involved. And even though Carly’s surgery was fairly simple, there is always the possibility of “something going wrong.” So as the time approached, I increasingly wondered what “after” might look like. And would I be able to say, “Blessed be your name” regardless of the outcome?
“Blessed Be Your Name” is inspired by the first two chapters of Job where it is recorded that Satan asserted the only reason Job blessed (honored) God is because God had given Job good things and if these blessings were taken, Job would curse God. God put all that Job had into Satan’s hand (1:12). What followed (1:13-2:10) was an attack on Job’s possessions, family, and person. This attack was by Satan, with God’s permission, through the means of events of nature, acts of men, and acts of Satan. Specifically,
1.Sabeans killed Job’s oxen and donkeys and some servants (1:14-15);
2.“Fire of God fell from heaven” and killed his sheep and some servants (1:16);
3.Chaldeans took his camels and killed some servants (1:17);
4.A great wind caused a house to collapse, killing all his children (1:18-19);
5.Satan caused Job to be covered with sores from head to foot (2:7).
Job said in response to his personal loss, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21) Note that he says, “the Lord has taken away.” The narrator adds that “In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (1:22). When Job’s health was afflicted by Satan, Job said, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil [bad]?” Again, note that Satan struck Job with sores, but Job recognizes this as done under God’s sovereignty. And again, the narrator adds, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (2:10), that is, he did not say anything false about God.
And so we sing in the song,
“You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name.”
There was no doubt in my mind that God could deliver Carly safely through the surgery. There was no lack of confidence on my part. But what if God should choose otherwise? Would I still bless God or would he gain my disapproval (as if that would cause him to tremble)?
There is much bad that happens every day; God could stop it all in an instant. Everyday people die for various reasons, many before they have reached a “ripe, old age;” God could stop it with just a word. But he doesn’t (at least not yet – see Rev 20:7-21:5). What if God should allow her to die? What if he should allow her to be crippled or otherwise impaired for life? Would I still say to God, “Blessed be your name?”
So I found myself thinking about these things prior to her surgery and rehearsing what I would say to others should something bad happen. As the days grew closer, I began wondering if this might be her last birthday party, last time at church, last bike ride, last bedtime snack.
The weekend before surgery, Carly was playing with a Playdough set. She told me how much she liked it and that if she died, her sister, Sophie, could have it. She did not seem to be saying this in the context of her coming surgery, since we had said very little to her about it. I thought it odd that she would be thinking that way. Was God preparing her? Was he preparing me?
The night prior to surgery, I began to wonder if she might die in her sleep, thinking that if God was going to take her, he might be gracious and take her in her sleep rather than in the trauma of surgery. She woke the next morning. She came through surgery fine and she seems to be recovering splendidly. After surgery, rather than adjusting to the reality of losing her at a young age, I was adjusting myself to the reality that God had graciously permitted her to go on living.
Praise God! But praise God if he should take her, too. Any good that we receive is undeserved and she has been an undeserved blessing in our lives. Maybe I should be seeing the rest of life through this lens.