We all have our own stories. Sometimes the circumstances of life seem overwhelming. At such times we face a choice. We can become resentful, angry and bitter. Or we can look beyond the trial to the gracious faithfulness of God and respond in thankfulness and gratitude.
We cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our response. With good humour and God–given strength, we can sing a song of gratitude in the storm.
Psalm 66:9–12 gives us three reasons why we can sing. This section was probably inspired by the memories Israel’s experiences in the Wilderness. During those forty years Israel often strayed because of their ingratitude and a reckless determination to forget his generosity. But God was always faithful. He preserved their lives (66:9). Without God they would have ceased to exist.
He has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping
For you, God, tested us;
you refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
You let people ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but you brought us to a place of abundance.
In every trial
Firstly, the Psalmist reminds us that we are in the hands of God.
“For you, God, tested us” (66:10)
He has already asserted that the Lord rules over all things by his power (66:7). Now he affirms that this included the trials of life. It is God who tests us. The sovereignty of God is the soft pillow on which we rest our heads when life overwhelms us. Think of how God tested Abraham:
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” (Genesis 22:2)
Hebrews tells us that Abraham trusted God that he would raise his son from the dead and so fulfil his purposes (Hebrews 11:17–19). He reasoned from what he already knew of God’s character and this inspired and strengthened his faith. He knew that he was in God’s hands and that God is all wise and does not make mistakes.
Refined like silver
This leads us to the second aid to gratitude; God has a purpose in the test
“you refined us like silver.” (66:10)
Tests are not sent to destroy us but to perfect us. God means us good. A lump of rock is of little value. But imagine that I discover a sliver of silver in it. What do I do? I crush it and put it into a furnace in order to remove the dross and to produce the silver. This is what God is doing when he tests us.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. (Romans 8:29).
God wants to make us like Jesus. Sometimes the furnace will have to be very hot indeed for him to achieve his desired goal. We can lift up our eyes and look beyond the flames to see the smiling face of the one who loves us and is determined to make us like his Son.
Home at last
Thirdly and finally we can sing in the storm because we know that one day it will end.
“but you brought us to a place of abundance.” (66:12)
The Wilderness was a place of testing for Israel. They often reacted badly to the tests and responded with grumbling instead of gratitude. Nonetheless, God was faithful and brought them into the promised land – “a place of abundance”.
In our lives, tests seem intolerable because they feel interminable. This can be true of chronic illness or a dysfunctional relationship or the numbness of bereavement. But every trial will one day end. God has promised to bring us into a place of abundance. Peter describes it as an inheritance that does not perish, spoil or fade and is secure:
“This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:4–5)
As we fix our eyes on it, we can look beyond the test and rejoice that the best is yet to be
In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:6)
It may not seem like a “little while”, but in the light of eternity it will soon be over. One day we will be home and all tears will be gone forever.
This extract is adapted from Paul Mallard’s new book The Grace of Gratitude, published by 10Publishing.