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  • Paul Reich

How Long, O Lord? (Part 3)

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

Experiencing God's love and goodness in times of trial and despair - Response #3: "Praise your heart full of God."

 

Photo source unknown. I've seen this photo on several other sites, but can't find it attributed to an original source

 

Personal Note:


Thank you for your grace and patience with me as I have taken time during this tearful season to process my grief, spend time with family and friends, and manage personal affairs since my wife’s passing on March 2. This has been the most difficult season of my life. Consequently, as routinely instructed by flight attendants before every takeoff, I felt the need to put on my own oxygen mask (metaphorically speaking) before attending to the needs of others. This resulted in cancelling or rescheduling numerous speaking engagements in February, March, and April, as well as putting my writing on hold.


Since mid-April, life has been extremely busy with a full speaking load, message preparations, some personal travel, and handling numerous personal matters. In addition, I have also been grieving the recent passing of my teacher, mentor, dear friend, and spiritual father of 50 years. Amidst all of this, I did not have the mental and emotional space to do much additional writing or to post new blogs.


With life slowly returning to normal, if there is such a thing, I now once again have the margins in my time and the mental energy to work on books and write blogs. This current post is the last of a three-part series entitled, “How Long O Lord?” Because my last post was on February 27, you may find it beneficial to review the previous two blogs before continuing with this one.


How Long, O Lord? (Part 3)


I have always been deeply challenged and inspired by those who have been able to praise God in the midst of their suffering and difficult circumstances:

  • By Job – after losing everything, he fell to the ground in worship saying, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:20-21).

  • By Paul and Silas – after being severely beaten with rods and shackled in the dark inner prison, they sang hymns of praise to God (Acts 16:22-26).

  • By Corrie and Betsie ten Boom – after being imprisoned in flea infested barracks at Ravensbruck, a Nazi concentration camp, they chose to thank God for the fleas. They later discovered that the fleas kept the guards from entering their barracks, giving them the freedom to hold Bible studies and share the gospel with fellow prisoners.[1]

  • By Richard Wurmbrand – having endured horrific torture and deprivation while incarcerated for his faith in a communist prison, he chose to dance for joy every night in obedience to Christ’s words, “Blessed are you when men come to hate you, when they exclude you from their company and reproach you and cast out your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!” (Luke 6:22). One time after being observed through the spyhole, the peering guard thought Wurmbrand was having a mental breakdown. In response, he hastened away “and returned with some food from the staff room: a hunk of bread, some cheese, and sugar. As I took them I remembered how the verse in Luke went on: ‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy—for behold your reward is great.’ It was a very large piece of bread—more than a week’s ration.”[2]


More recently, I’ve been impacted by the story of Martin Rinkart. Born in 1586, Martin Rinkart served as a German Lutheran Pastor in Eilenburg, Saxony (now Germany). He pastored during the 30 Year War (1616-1648), a horrific period in European history. Beginning as a religious conflict between the Roman Catholics and Protestants, it developed into a political power struggle embroiling all the European countries in bloody war for 30 years. Across Europe, unimaginable destruction, death, and famine were left in the wake of the war as homes and crops were burned and people suffered cruelty at the hands of enemy soldiers. To put things in perspective, Saxony (Germany) suffered more devastation during the 30 Year War, than either WWI or WWII.


Leaving everything behind, survivors ran for their lives hoping to find friendly people and protection in the next town. Because Eilenberg, where Rinkart served, was a walled city, it withstood destruction, and refugees fleeing the horrors of war went there for protection. The influx of refugees resulted in overcrowding and food shortages.


Then in 1637, the plague arrived in this overcrowded city with devastating results. With several of the city’s other pastors dying from the plague and the superintendent fleeing the city, Rinkart was left alone to tend the sick and bury the dead. He performed as many as 50 funerals a day, totaling over 4,480 funerals of the more than 8,000 that died in the plague, many being buried in mass graves. Among those who died was his own wife. This was not only a shattering personal loss for him but also a devastating loss for their children, and left him the added responsibilities of being a single parent.


Portrait of Martin Rinkart - Image is Public Domain


The plague was followed by a famine so extreme that eyewitness accounts describe thirty or forty people fighting in the streets for a dead cat or crow. During this time, Rinkart gave so much to feeding the hungry showing up at his door that he was forced to mortgage several years of his income just to feed and clothe his own children.


To rub salt in the wound, the Swedish army once more laid siege to Eilenberg, requiring them to pay an impossibly high tribute to be released from the siege. Risking a visit to the enemy’s camp, Rinkart entreated the Swedish general for mercy. When his appeal was refused, he called those who had gone with him to take refuge with God in prayer. Falling on his knees, he prayed with such touching earnestness that the general finally relented, and greatly lowered his financial demands to a sum that the city could pay. At last, the siege was lifted.


It was in the middle of these great hardships that Rinkart wrote a prayer, which was later put to music and became the beloved hymn, Now Thank We All our God.


Now Thank We All Our God

Author: Martin Rinkart (1636)

Translator: Catherine Winkworth


Now thank we all our God

with heart and hands and voices,

who wondrous things has done,

in whom his world rejoices;

who from our mothers' arms

has blessed us on our way

with countless gifts of love,

and still is ours today.


O may this bounteous God

through all our life be near us,

with ever joyful hearts

and blessed peace to cheer us,

to keep us in his grace,

and guide us when perplexed,

and free us from all ills

of this world in the next.


All praise and thanks to God

the Father now be given,

the Son and Spirit blest,

who reign in highest heaven

the one eternal God,

whom heaven and earth adore;

for thus it was, is now,

and shall be evermore.


Rinkart’s faith and faithfulness amidst decades of hardship and loss inspires me and at the same time challenges me. Together with the other men and women mentioned above, his ability to praise the Lord in the face of such dire circumstances deeply probes my own trust in God’s faithful care for me amidst my own difficulties.


David also demonstrates this same kind of faith and worship in many of his Psalms. Alongside the many troubles he describes, he frequently bursts into paeans of praise even though his circumstances have not yet changed. In my previous two posts, we have been looking at one such Psalm, Psalm 13.


Review


This Psalm is easily divided into three movements. In the first two verses of Psalm 13, David pours out his anguished heart to God due to an enemy having the upper hand. We are not told in this Psalm who his enemy is, but we know that he is suffering perpetual sorrow and mental anguish over the situation. In desperation, David pours out his heart to God, unloading the pain of his suffering soul. This is the first of three prayer responses that David models in this Psalm. Following his example, I encouraged you to follow David’s first prayer response and “Pour Your Heart Out to God.”


In the Psalm’s second movement (verses 3 and 4), David lifts his petitions to the Lord in heartfelt prayer. He asks the Lord to consider his plight, answer his request, and give him hope, first by changing his perspective but also by rescuing him from the hand of his enemy. His response provides an example for us to pray, lifting our petitions regarding our own painful circumstances to the Lord. I titled this second movement “Pray Your Heart Up to God.”


In this post, we will look at Psalm 13’s third movement which encompasses the last two verses. From David’s third prayer response, we learn the importance of praise and worship amidst the tears of a troubled heart and painful circumstances. I’ve entitled this movement, “Praise Your Heart Full of God.”


3 PRAISE YOUR HEART FULL OF GOD


Psalm 13

5 But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;

My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

6 I will sing to the Lord,

Because He has dealt bountifully with me.


After pouring out his heart and lifting his petitions to God, David postures his heart in faith, having placed his trust in the faithful love of God “But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness (NASB). His faith in God’s lovingkindness provides a solid foundation for praising the Lord, "My heart shall rejoice . . . I will sing to the Lord." The word “lovingkindness” in the NASB is variously translated as follows in other prominent English translations.


NIV – "unfailing love"

ESV – "steadfast love"

NET – "faithfulness"

KJV – "mercy"


The Hebrew word used here is hesed, and it refers to God’s unfailing covenantal love, His faithfulness. Occurring 248 times in the Old Testament, hesed describes one of the primary attributes of God’s character in relationship to His covenant people. Used on its own or frequently listed with other attributes of God’s character, hesed describes the abundant kindness and faithfulness of God toward His people. Throughout the Psalms it is regularly acclaimed as a basis for praising God. Occurring 26 times Psalm 136 alone, God’s everlasting hesed is the focus of praise behind God’s wonderous acts of creation, redemption, deliverance, and provision in every verse!


Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay. Text added


In Psalm 13, we learn from David's example to place our trust in the unfailing and steadfast lovingkindness of God. There is something about having an assurance of God’s love in difficulty that brings peace to our troubled hearts. God loves us, God is for us, and nothing will separate us from His love (Romans 8:28-39). Knowing that God loves us assures us that He is aware of our pain, He hears our prayers, and He will ultimately work out our painful situations for our good and for His glory.


How about you? Are you confident in God’s steadfast unfailing love in what you are going through or have you allowed your trying circumstances to eclipse his love and goodness? Even a small dime can block your vision when held close to your eye. In the same way, when you fix your focus on the problem before you, you obscure God’s faithfulness and power to work in your situation. However, by fixing your focus on the unfailing love of God, your dime-sized problem is pulled away from being prominent in your view and is seen for how small it truly is in view of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and greatness.


By posturing his faith in God’s lovingkindness, David can rejoice in God’s deliverance and salvation from his enemies even though he has not yet experienced it. "My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation." He is confident that the Lord will rescue him. He is confident that the Lord will come through. Throughout the Bible, the writers often speak of future deliverance as if it has already come. It is a way of declaring their firm assurance in the certainty of God's promises and His faithfulness to act on their behalf. This is what David does here in this Psalm.


As a result of his assurance that God will deliver him despite his current situation, David determines to praise God for his goodness.


6 I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.


David reminds himself of the abundant goodness of God, “for He has been good to me” (NIV). Recognizing the Lord’s bountiful goodness and entreating the Lord to deal bountifully are both recurring themes in the Psalms (See 116:7; 119:17; 142:7).


Reminding yourself of God’s bountiful goodness is akin to counting your blessings. It is reviewing in your mind the many ways that God has shown Himself faithful and has come through for you in the past. Doing this will lift your mind above your current circumstances and enable you to sing confident praises to the Lord. In the popular song, Count Your Many Blessings, three of the verses encourage us to count our blessings in the midst of life’s trials, discouragements, burdens, and conflicts.


Count Your Many Blessings

Author: Johnson Oatman (1897)


When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.


Refrain:

Count your blessings, name them one by one;

Count your blessings, see what God hath done;

Count your blessings, name them one by one;

Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.


Are you ever burdened with a load of care?

Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?

Count your many blessings, ev'ry doubt will fly,

And you will be singing as the days go by.


When you look at others with their lands and gold,

Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;

Count your many blessings, money cannot buy

Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.


So, amid the conflict, whether great or small,

Do not be discouraged, God is over all;

Count your many blessings, angels will attend,

Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.


It is by recalling God’s abundant goodness and bounty that David can sing to the Lord amidst his painful circumstance. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”


Both by example and through exhortation the Bible encourages us to praise the Lord in the midst of life’s difficulties. From numerous Biblical examples, I’ve already mentioned Job, Paul, and David. Consider also these several passages that by example or exhortation, encourage us to praise the Lord in times of trial.


Psalm 34:1 (NASB)

1 I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.


Psalm 59:16–17 (NASB)

16 But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress.

17 O my strength, I will sing praises to You; For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness.


Habakkuk 3:17–19 (NASB)

17 Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls,

18 Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

19 The Lord God is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places.


1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 (NASB)

16 Rejoice always;

17 pray without ceasing;

18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


A Personal Account


The day of my wife’s funeral was extremely difficult for me. That night I did not sleep well. I tossed and turned and poured out my heart to God in those dark sleepless moments lying alone in bed. The next morning was equally difficult as I was overcome with grief and my mind raced with thoughts of all that had transpired in the previous months, weeks, and the funeral service just the day before. I finally crawled out of bed at 10:30 that Sunday morning with a resolve to shower, dress up, and attend the afternoon service of an international church in Edmonton.


Having watched their services online from time to time and having once attended a service in person, I was looking forward to their extended time of worship and basking in God’s presence amidst a congregation of worshippers. Because of my brokenness, I didn’t know what to expect but I was hoping to encounter the Lord . . . I was not disappointed.


The songs and music turned my attention heavenward in praise to a faithful and worthy Lord and Savior. The worship was God-glorifying, Christ-focused, and Spirit-anointed. Several of the songs seemed to have been chosen just for me as we sang of Christ’s supremacy over sin, death, and the sufferings of this life. Christ was exalted time and again as He was enthroned on the praises of His people. For an hour, I stood with my hands raised, tears streaming down my face, as the Holy Spirit powerfully ministered to my heart, His waves of love, comfort, and assurance sweeping over my anguished soul. In those moments of focusing on the majesty of Jesus, my burdens were lifted, my mind was settled, and my faith was strengthened.


That afternoon, I met the Lord in a powerful and healing way during the worship, but God had even more in store for me. Parts of the sermon had significant relevance for me. In fact, the exact same verse emphasized at the end of the message (John 12:24) was sent to me just a few days later by a friend who lived in another city. Accompanying the verse were six paragraphs of very insightful exposition and heartfelt encouragement that flowed from my friend’s time of prayer for me. Out of more than 31,000 verses in the Bible, hundreds of which would have been meaningfully relevant for my situation, this was the one chosen by my friend - not a coincidence! God wanted to doubly emphasize to me the truth of this passage.


On top of all this, after his message that Sunday, the pastor called the congregation to a time of prayer. While people remained in their seats praying, the pastor, whom I still have never met, left the platform, walked down a side aisle where I was sitting five rows back and laid his hand on my shoulder. He had a prophetic word for me to the effect that spiritual and ministry restoration of the highest order was taking place. I wasn’t a forgotten file on a shelf, but the Lord had me in his hand and was going to put me to use.


Knowing my brokenness, the Lord prompted the pastor to pray and prophesy over me out of the several hundred gathered that day. Needless to say, this greatly assured my heart that I was under the Lord's watchful care, in His capable hands, and He had plans for my life and ministry. Though my circumstances had not changed, my perspective and disposition had drastically changed as a result of spending these few hours in the Lord’s presence.


Summary


By pouring your heart out to God, you unload your burdens and anxieties on the Lord. By praying your heart up to God, you upload your requests to God for His intervention. By praising your heart full of God, you posture your heart in faith on God’s unfailing love and goodness. David’s three-fold response is encapsulated in Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians.


Philippians 4:4, 6 (NASB95)

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! . . .

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.


Regardless of the circumstances, Paul exhorts us to always rejoice in the Lord and to lift our anxieties and needs to Him through prayer coupled with thanksgiving. The result is God’s unfathomable peace despite the circumstances. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:7). God’s peace will flood our souls, acting like a sentry over our hearts and minds, keeping them fixed on Christ and protecting them from despair.


When looking through the glasses of despair, everything else gets painted with the same lens, and we can lose sight of God’s goodness and His many blessings for which we can give thanks. By lifting our anxious hearts and requests to God in prayer coupled with thanksgiving, and thereby rejoicing in the Lord even amidst life’s challenging times, we can experience supernatural peace beyond human comprehension. David experienced this, other saints of old have experienced this, I have personally experienced this in my moments of deepest despair, and you too can experience God's abiding peace in the midst of your difficult circumstances.


REFERENCES

[1] The Hiding Place (chapters 13 and 14).

[2] In God's Underground (p. 48-49). Living Sacrifice Book Company. Kindle Edition.

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sharon
23 ก.ค. 2566

Paul, only a man who has suffered as you have could write with such moving conviction on this subject. My faith has been probed by reading it. I praise God for pouring out His comfort and grace to you. I praise Him for your faithful life and perseverance in crushing circumstances. I praise Him because I see Jesus in you. I praise Him in advance for what he will do in future days in your life and ministry. He is faithful and will carry on to completion what He has begun in you. I look forward to seeing it! Thank you for serving us through writing out of your brokenness. I know you needed the time apart, but I'm gla…

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paul
24 ก.ค. 2566
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Thank you Sharon for your prayers and thoughtful words! I join you in your praises to God for what He has done, is doing, and will do. I'm humbled by your appreciation.

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paul
22 ก.ค. 2566

Thank you Joya for your encouraging words!

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joyjagrace
22 ก.ค. 2566
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Thanks Pastor Paul for your response. From my end when I sent the original comment it looked like it didn’t go through all the way but had been cut short. That is why I sent part two with the YouTube info again.

Joyja~~

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joyjagrace
22 ก.ค. 2566

…..See YouTube:

  1. Bill Johnson preaches a Powerful sermon after wife’s passing -July 19, 2022 ( 45:27)

  2. ” Praise Is Our Weapon” Bill Johnson at “ Empowered” Conference March 31,2023 (1:33:13)

These will greatly confirm what the Holy Spirit is teaching you.

Sincerely;

Joyja Mabbs

Red Deer, AB

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joyjagrace
22 ก.ค. 2566

Thanks Pastor Paul for your powerful writing today and always. You are a great communicator and I am enriched when I have read your blogs or heard you preach. I am so sorry for you and your family’s recent loss of your dear wife Lynn.

Last July 13th, 2022 Pastor Bill Johnson lost his wife Beni to cancer. He preached a few days later by the grace of God a powerful message on praise that confirms what you wrote in your recent blog. It went viral. It was so moving to me I wrote the whole thing out word for word. Then he added to that revelation when he preached this last March 31st, 2023 at an “ Empowered Confere…

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