Though You Slay Me

I wish I could adequately express the emotions that might reside in my heart on any given day. Sometimes I sit to write, and I cannot choose where to start or which end to write about.

There is the overwhelming joy I have for my daughter, for the life I feel moving and kicking and growing in my womb; there is also the grief that rises up at times, coming out of nowhere like a thief in the night. There is the longing I have to hold my daughter, to see her face, to proudly show her to the world as the child God has entrusted to us; there is also the fear of what is to come, the unknown with all its guaranteed hard days and good days. I feel like a pendulum of emotions at times.

One morning several weeks ago, my phone buzzed from a text message. A very dear friend of mine was praying for me, and she felt moved to share a song of comfort that early morning. As I listened to the song's haunting melody and drank of its poetic language, my spirit filled with a strength and peace I so desperately needed in this season of life. Morning after morning, before any others had stirred in my home, this song would play from my phone as I sat in the quietness. Each time I listened to this song, the words fortified a resolve in my heart to praise my God, even in the unknown and heartbreak of this life, even as we wait to see what will happen in the life of our unborn daughter.

I have considered the song's words often over the last month or so. The musicians describe an understanding of suffering that builds to become quite a striking paradox. The chorus goes like this:

Though You slay me
     Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
     I will bless Your Name
Though You ruin me
     Still I will worship
Sing a song to the One who’s all I need

Several thousand years ago, another man first uttered these words. Job, a righteous man who loved the Lord, wrestled with the greatest of suffering one might face in this world. He had tragically and suddenly lost nearly everything he held dear in this life: his children, his possessions, his health, his reputation. In the midst of unimaginable torment and pain, his wife called on him to curse God and die, while his friends charged him to confess some hidden sin that they believed was the cause of all his loss. But Job would not be deterred; he still believed in the goodness of Almighty God. "Though he slay me," Job told his friends, "I will hope in him" (Job 13:15).

To the world, Job seemed a fool.

When Job first received news of the death of his children and the loss of his livestock and wealth, Job responded in this way:

"Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, 'Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.' ”

Was Job a crazy man? When most would shake their fists at God and say, "Enough!", Job still worshipped.

The sheer absurdity of it all makes me shake my head in wonder, honestly: that one could be so totally convinced of God's goodness and sovereignty, not even the worst of suffering in this life might change his or her mind. But therein lies the difference between a Christ-follower and one who does not know Jesus.

We spend much of our time attempting to prevent loss and heartache. We try to eat healthy and exercise regularly. We take vitamins and visit our doctors for annual checkups. We buckle our seatbelts; vigilantly watch our children as they eat, sleep, and play; and arm our homes with state of the art alarm systems. We have traffic laws and gun laws, laws governing our investments and finances. Safety is the key; preventing pain is the goal. We are obsessed with pursuing health and happiness and avoiding tragedy.

This makes sense, of course, as no one wants to suffer, but logically, it is not possible. We cannot prevent every tragedy that might come our way, and we do ourselves a great disservice when we refuse to consider that all our efforts still might not be enough. Disease still comes, bad people still harm others, and accidents still happen. It is the way of life in this broken and sin-stained world.

To the one who does now know God, this is a bleak picture, indeed, but to the one who intimately knows the Lord, there is hope far greater than any suffering. It all comes down to hope, really. Is all our hope bound in what we can get between those great bookends of life...birth and death? Or does our hope span into eternity? Job made it clear where his hope was found. He told his friends, his accusers:

"For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!" (Job 19:25-27)

To this world estranged from God because of the sin condition, such a mindset is foolishness. How can our lips utter these words, professing devotion to Him though the worst may come? How can I find comfort in this song and this scripture, knowing my daughter has a syndrome that may threaten her health and her livelihood during her life? How can my friend find peace, the one who shared this song with me when she had just two weeks prior buried her newborn son? How could Job, a man who seemingly lost it all?

Because we know Him, we trust Him, and we believe He is good. Our Redeemer lives, and this life is not all we have...because of Jesus.

Do we hurt? Oh, we hurt! Do we grieve? Oh, we grieve! Do we feel anger, sadness, confusion, or desperation at any point along our journeys in this life? Yes, we feel all these emotions in our heartache, just like any other human being. Some days are good, some days are better, and some days are just rotten.

But we are not without hope.

The lyrics of this song are safe to us because we know our God is good and kind. We find comfort in this song, in the story behind it (Job), and in all the promises of Scripture, because we know that in proclaiming these words, we are not inviting the wrath of God but invoking the goodness of God. We are not predicting the works of God but proclaiming our trust in God. Our hearts are stirred, and we are reminded that if the worst should happen, we know that God in His goodness will bring it all to completion, for His glory and for our good, as He has promised in His Word (i.e. Romans 8).

To this, the world may cry "Nonsense!" But I have an answer: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died for my sins and rose again. Jesus Christ, the one who paid the price for my sins and now sits at the right hand of the Father, interceding on my behalf. My Redeemer lives, and though my flesh is wounded and weary, I will see God at the end of my trials. This is my hope; this is my song!

Bless the Lord, O My Soul: Psalm 103

More Than I Can Bear