I’ve been asked more than once how you can lead people in singing God’s praise when you’re going through your own personal trials. This past weekend I had the opportunity to find out first hand.
I was out of town last week and on Wednesday morning received a call from my son, Jordan. He and his wife, Tali, have three young boys, and they’re currently living with us as Jordan attends the Sovereign Grace Pastor’s College.
“Dad, do you have a few minutes?” he asked. I wasn’t expecting what he said next.
“We had to take Jack to the hospital last night. The doctors say he has cancer.”
I had one of those moments when the world seems to stop and you wonder if this is really happening. Suddenly, the future looked very different.
Tests revealed that 2 year old Jack has leukemia. By God’s grace, it’s the “best” kind of leukemia to get, with a recovery rate of over 90%. Still, if everything goes well it will be at least three years until we’re able to say that Jack is fully recovered. And there’s always that 5-10% who never recover.
I was scheduled to lead the singing in our church this past Sunday morning and the songs had already been chosen. The focus was the Father’s personal, particular, and passionate love for those he has chosen from before the foundations of the earth and adopted in Jesus Christ. Here’s the list:
Praise the Lord (Doug Plank/Bob Kauflin)
The Father’s Love (Joel Sczebel)
How Deep the Father’s Love (Stuart Townend)
The Lord Is (Pat Sczebel/Bob Kauflin)
I guess I could have struggled with the apparent dichotomy between my circumstances and the songs we were singing. Or ignored what my family was going through altogether and pretended that nothing was wrong. Or complained about how hard life is sometimes.
By God’s grace, I actually drew great comfort from God through the truths we sang. So after the first song, which is based on Psalm 150, I shared a few thoughts not only for the church, but for my own soul.
In Scripture, God never gives us the command to praise him without giving us reasons to do so. In Psalm 150 we’re told to praise God for his mighty deeds and his excellent greatness. We see the same thing in Psalm 103, where David tells us to bless the Lord and then gives us multiple reasons why. Here’s what he says:
Psa. 103:1 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
As those who have reconciled to God through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, we have an infinite number of reasons to praise God. I don’t know what you were thinking when you came in this morning, whether you’ve been wondering if God knows the trials you’re facing, or is even aware of your existence. I do know that thoughts like that won’t lead us to praise the Lord. But his Word tells us that “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”
God isn’t “out there somewhere.” Because of Jesus, we praise a loving Father who knows our frame, who knows the trials we’re facing, and is working things out for our good and his glory. He is the God who will not deal with us according to our sins and has taken our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west. He is the one who heals all our diseases and redeems our life from the pit. How can we not praise him?!
So here’s the point. We don’t lead others out of a vacuum or a sanitized form of Christianity that bears no resemblance to normal life. It’s important that we take time to grieve, acknowledge pain, and confess our struggles. But when, not if, you find yourself leading out of weakness, challenges, and trials, don’t minimize what’s going on or succumb in despair to your burdens. Lift your eyes, even as you lift the eyes of others, to the Father whose compassions never fail and to the Savior whose mercies are new every morning.
Whether God changes our trials, or more importantly, changes us through our trials, we praise him now in joyful anticipation of the day he will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4).
PS We found out that because Jack is responding so well to the chemo treatments, he’s coming home today. God is good.
Thank you for this reminder that in the middle of sorrows and difficulties we can continue to praise God for His mercy and love and uncountable blessings. Dear brother, I will be praying for little Jack and Jordan and Tali and you and Julie.
Thank you Bob. I will be praying for you and your family.
Providentialy, my pastor asked (and he hardly ever asks) me to lead the song “Be Still My Soul” and only days after we found out that we would miscarry. Because of this I was absent that Sunday, but the following Sunday we sang “Be Still My Soul” and with this song I added “The Solid Rock” and “Blessed Be Your Name”
Bob, it’s amazing that you post this today. Last fall my wife and I were in the process of adopting a child. We’ve been unable to have children of our own and through this adoption the Lord blessed us with a wonderful baby boy that we cared for from birth. Braden Samuel was born on October 17, 2009 and on December 17, his birthmother asked for him back. If she had not wanted him back, today is the day her rights as a parent could have been terminated and Braden would have legally been our son.
The loss of Braden was staggering and still brings up painful emotions. The first Sunday back to church after returning Braden to his birthmother, I unexpectedly needed to lead worship. Singing songs of praise to the Lord through the grief of losing a child was one of the hardest things I’ve done. There were moments that I didn’t think I could continue singing. It was and is the hope of Christ that allows my wife and I to continue praising. He is in control even when our circumstances do not make sense. God knows our trials and wants to lead us through them. His plan is so much higher than what we can imagine.
It is easy to praise God when things are going well. It is so difficult to praise Him when they aren’t. But it is during those times that the glory of God can shine the brightest. The Lord never fails us, how can we not lift up His name?
Going through this right now, I identify with both Jordan and with you.
Our two-year old was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder in September. It is not leukemia, but a blood coagulation disorder.
Being able to lead songs like those listed above has been extremely encouraging–rehearsing the truth to myself while practicing, but even more so is hearing the young people sing the truths has been an incredible reminder of God’s mercy and grace in the midst of it.
Those reminders bring us joy and so we can say that in our affliction, Christ has been our JOY!
Dear Bob, our pastor’s grandson was diagnosed with leukemia almost three years ago and is now coming to the end of his treatment. We continue to pray for his healing as we will be praying for your grandson’s as well. As a cancer survivor myself, this hits close to home. I will be thinking and praying for you this Sunday as we sing “My Soul Finds Rest” by Aaron Keyes.
In His Hands, Sam
Thank you for the example of your incredible faith given to you by Christ. It is such an encouragement to young worship pastors like myself to see brothers in Christ like yourself hold Jesus in regard above all else. You and your family are in my prayers.
Thanks for your words yet again Bob. We’ll be praying for his healing and God’s peace for your family.
Thanks for this incredibly helpful post! I will be praying for Jack and your family. You have given great scriptural encouragement on a subject that has bothered me at various times over the years of ministry. What an honor to serve those for whom Jesus died! God bless your ministry!
Bob, thank you for the encouraging words…I know about praising HIm through my pain … two years ago my wife was preparing for her homecoming due to with Lung Disease.
I spent every possible moment with her except Sunday mornings her last few months. Suzi DEMANDED that I practice and sing with the Praise Team at church … she knew that as I worshipped and ministered to HIM, He would minister to me.
Bob, thanks so much for serving us by sharing this. I appreciate you and your ministry. :)
Praying for lil Jack and your entire family. Maybe it’s just the instant availability of info but man there’s seem to be so many intense battles with cancer in the church body right now. Not sure what to make of it all except that God is always good and always faithful. God bless you and your family.
It’s like what the great Martyn Lloyd-Jones said – “Most of your unhappiness is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself.” You won’t find any joy if you’re just looking at your circumstances. But if you look to Jesus, who suffered more than we ever will and who paid the price for our sin so that we have the hope of one day never experiencing any more pain, you will find joy.
Bob – amazing that you’ve posted this. Thanks for opening up and laying this out for us. Of course, I will be praying for you and yours. Of course, you are learning and tasting of Jesus’ love in privileged ways. But I weep with you too.
May He surround you with comfort and true comforters (2 Cor. 1), and reveal Jesus in greater and more extraordinary ways to your hearts. May His mercy and grace be upon Jack in abundant, overflowing measure.
Blessed by these comments. Thanks for your prayers and words of encouragement. God is so very kind.
Thanks for sharing this news, Bob. We will be in prayer for your family. We are so very thankful for your prayers and kindness in our family trouble.
Terry, I mentioned you last night in our small group couples meeting. I will always be affected by the grace of God that was revealed in you and Juanita when you lost Emily. God is faithful to sustain his own, and your example is clear evidence of that truth.
My wife and I have recently gone through the same valley. Our 18 month old daughter (youngest of 5) was diagnosed with leukemia. Life was radically changed. Looking back; it was a difficult time, physically and mentally. We spent 186 days in the hospital over an 11 month period. Spiritually, it was a time of new found dependence, growth and humility. We are finished treatment now. She has been cancer free since the first month of treatment, 2 years this month. PRAISE GOD! God has taught my wife and I so much, I can’t begin to explain it all in this brief blog. Our older children have seen God work in ways they never would have if this would not have happened to us.
I know you know these things but I will say them any way (because we all need to hear them) God is faithful, no matter the outcome, God is faithful. He will still be Sovereign, He still will love us, He still gives grace to those who seek His face……So, may I encourage you to seek His face, never stop, Rejoice! No matter how dark and difficult the road ahead might get, the peace of God, which surpasses all of our understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. I can say without a doubt….this is true. There she was going thru chemo, in my arms, I.V.’s hooked up, 105° fever, Pneumonia, breathing with the help of a machine, seemingly barely alive…my heart ached for her like I cannot describe…BUT…as dark as this sounds…THERE WAS HOPE. Hope that I cannot explain in any other way except it came from God. Not the kind of hope that doctors bring, that positive thinking brings, that anything in this world can bring……..But the kind of hope that comes only from knowing Jesus Christ as LORD and SAVIOR. His grace is so abundant, it is breath taking. There is no other way to describe it.
My wife, children and I will never be the same. We are better. God has done wonderful things in our life. My wife and I have been involved in worship since before we met 16 years ago. At the time our daughter was diagnosed, we were up front participating in leading worship every Sunday. We continued…..through the entire treatment. I am convinced (looking back) that our commitment to worshiping “through the pain”, so to speak, was the best thing we could have done. It was there in the midst of worship that God strengthened us, comforted us, and gave us hope and healing. We were at the Worship God conference last summer. It was great. I wept so much. All that had happened in the past year had just culminated there in Maryland. God brought it all into a clearer perspective for me. Did I want this to happen, No! Do I regret that it did, No! God has His purposes, and those purposes work out for His Glory, even if He uses me to do it. Plain and simple. After all, that’s part of what it means to be a humble servant of the Living God Most High.
This news hits pretty close to home for me. I hope you find comfort in knowing that I feel your burden, and even more so the burden your son and his wife are bearing right now. I know. Boy…do I know. We (my wife, children and I) will help carry this burden faithfully in prayer. That is a commitment I will make to Jordan, Tali, their children (especially Jack) and yourself and your wife. God is still God and He always will be, to the glory of His Name!
P.S. You and Jordan are more than welcome to contact me if you like. I will help in any way I can, even if that means just listening.
Jamie, your story is very moving and encouraging. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.
wow. So often our faith can become ‘sanitised’ and plastic. Things like this really do show that our faith has to be real.
A week or two ago in our congregation a women announced she had cancer..it was the first time that someone had been so honest. I’d say that in the midst of this we can see God’s greatness more clearly than when we’re being plastic.
Last Halloween night, my husband brought our 6 year old son to the hospital, and they discovered a brain tumor the size of an orange in the back of his head.
Those nights in the hospital seemed long and without God’s strength to lean on, we never would have gotten through it.
The two songs that I sang over and over again to my little boy as he lay there sleeping was Stuart Townend’s How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, and Great is Thy Faithfulness.
When singing to God, it is amazing the amount of comfort that can be felt.
We are so grateful that our son Gideon is now in therapy and that God is healing him above and beyond what we would have ever hoped. Our goal was that throughout our ordeal, that God would be made to look so great…and He was. So many were touched through our circumstances, and we saw it as a great opportunity to spread the Gospel.
My prayers are with your grandson and your entire family!
Last August, my husband and I came to “Worship God 09”. We were just six months past what you and your family are now beginning. We were wondering if we should take a more behind the scenes role, more for me than for him. Our then 18 month old daughter had been diagnosed with MDS, an early form of AML leukemia, a very deadly form. The good news is that she has Down Syndrome and b/c of Down’s her survival rate jumped to 85%-90% success rate. Do I hear a “be thankful for all circumstances coming on?”. After 11 months of treatment, more days in the hospital than we thought would be humanly possible and homeschooling the other 4 children ages 6, 8, 10,and 11. I was feeling like I could have taught the session “In the Valley”.
We came away very refreshed, not rested :), but excited for how God would continue to use us, no matter the circumstances.
Sometimes people would come up to me ask how I could still be upfront and worship God and not burst into tears when my daughter was in the hospital fighting for her life.
I would simply tell them that I cannot change who I am to “fit” the circumstances. God is still God, will always be God and why would I praise Him any less. I do not want to change who I am because of circumstances. I will hopefully grow and be changed because of God’s working through those circumstances and God will receive all the honor.
Continue to be the family that God made you to be, continue to praise Him while you have breath, continue to cry, and sing, and shout out to God, be all you can be and God will use you for His glory…..no matter what. He deserves the very best we can give Him and sometimes that’s just a short prayer of “thank You for another day”. Praise Him in the joys and the sorrows and leave tomorrow to Him.
Praying for you and your family, loving you, and knowing what you are going through. He will be glorified. He will be God, He will be faithful. Do your very best for Him and leave the resutls to Him.
Our daughter just reached one year of remission. She has four more years of visits until she is considered cured and also needs speech and OT because of the Down’s, but we are thankful for every day, every day…..
Julie, thank you for your moving and encouraging testimony. What a gracious God we worship.
Thank you for not only this post but for years of faithful, wise, humble service to the church. Many at our church, myself included, deeply respect you and have benefited from your ministry. We’ll pray for you and your family.
Kevin, thanks for your kind words of encouragement, and especially for your prayers.
I have three grandsons. If any of them had to bear such a burden, I don’t know what I would do really. I think I would lose it. Yet, through testimonies like your’s, (genuine heartfelt testimonies), I can take heart that God is greater than my heart, and that he would see me through, even if I did lose it, and went totally berserk.
Thanks for sharing.
“as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
This is a powerful thought. It’s one of my Mom’s favorite verses, which explains the Gospel.
Well said and worth sharing.
Thanks so much for this post.
Just a brief explanation. I wrote Post #16, and concerning Post # 21….well… that’s my wonderful wife, Julie. It’s the same story. We both wrote unknowing of the other. Amazing sometimes how God works.
Jordon has been on my heart allot these past two days. I was recalling today how it was the first couple hours after we received the news. We were dazed. But I remember sitting at home with my wife on the couch weeping together and closing my eyes as tight as I could and saying; “God, if this is the road that is in front of us now…we will go down it. We don’t like it but your will… not ours.” It was then that hope came like a rain shower of Grace. (that sounds kind of over spiritual, but I don’t know how else to describe it). God gave us instant peace and assurance that things will be ok, no matter what happens, He will carry us through. Looking back, I think that moment of submission was the first of many blessings that came from humbling ourselves before God. Christ gave us the example in the garden. What a cup He drank! What anguish He experienced. In humble submission to the Fathers will He willingly went down the road before Him and because of it, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Praise God!
My wife and I are both truly moved to hold your family up in prayer. We pray as a family every night before bed time. Jack and his parents (and yourself) will be lifted up continually. Praying for amazing healing and that God will continue to mold all of you as you humbly submit to Him….I know you would not want it any other way. Not everyone has the chance to grow under these circumstances. You will see God work in ways you would not see otherwise. What you all are experiencing is a privilege, a unique opportunity from God to grow in maturity of faith. It may not seem like that now, but it will…give it time….it will….if it doesn’t already. The God of the Universe is intimately concerned with His children whom He loves.
Chin up & eyes toward the Savior. Some day we will see Him in His Glory…..face to face. Oh Happy Day.
Please pass this on to Jordan if you feel it is appropriate.
In Christ’s love,
P.S. Sorry this is so long again…I can get long winded:~)
Jamie and Julie, thanks for your encouraging words and faith-filled example. We found out today that Jack’s leukemia count in his bone marrow is less than .5%. They were hoping it would be less than 5%. His next chemo treatment isn’t for a few weeks. God is answering prayers and we are so grateful.
Thanks for your encouraging post on praising God as the Psalms have become so alive for me. On Jan 27th one of our 2yr old twin boys was diagnosed with ALL (I’m guessing that is what Jack has). We too are praising God for the good Leukemia and his count hit 0% this week (ahead of schedule!!!). I’ve been sustained during the tough times by I Pet 1 and Ps 121:1-3. We have been so blessed and amazed and thank Jesus for his hands and feet of many churches providing meals, child care, house chores, extra car, housing near the hospital and the many prayers. Your family will be in our prayers.
Julie/Jamie: wow, praise God for your faith! My wife and I feel dazed any your story is so very encouraging.
Thank you, Bob, for this post. More people need to talk about this. As a pastor, one of the things I find is that a person’s natural tendency, in the midst of especially traumatic trials, is to retreat from worship and connection with the people of God.
I went through this with my wife receiving a cancer diagnosis that was pretty scary. All the while, I “had to do my job” leading worship…a severe mercy of God. More than the book of Job, or even reflections on Christ’s sufferings (as powerful as they are), the Lord brought the prophet Habakkuk to me in a new and meaningful way:
“Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
YET I will rejoice in teh LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.” (Hab. 3:17-18)
I’ve been a “Yet I will” worshiper ever since. It’s taken me to new heights of faith and trust in Christ, and it’s made me a better pastor and worship leader.
Alongside your great song-list, I humbly submit this hymn by Frances Ridley Havergal, called “Light After Darkness,” reset to a modern tune:
Lyrics and Song-Story: http://www.zachicks.com/light-after-darkness/
Listen to it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwsGRw7bUuU
Again, thank you for talking about this subject. For too many, it is the elephant in the sanctuary each week.
So sorry to hear about Jack, so grateful to read your response. Praying now for Jack, Jordan and your whole family.
Hey Bob. Sorry to hear about your grandson. May the Lord’s healing hand be upon him. Thanks for sharing this post and all that you do at sovereign grace music. I’m a 25 year old married guy with a 9 month son. I’v been batting cancer since since September. Many of the sovereign grace tunes have been a comfort to my soul
Rob, I thank God that he’s used our music to encourage you. May you continue to be aware of his nearness and goodness.
Thank you for reminding us once again that the same God we praise when prayers are answered the way we want them to be is the same God we praise when he doesn’t. My father had an unexpected triple bypass surgery and I stood and thanked the congregation for their prayers for him and my family. Six weeks later, I stood and thanked the congregation again for their prayers after the unexpected death of my mother. That morning I sang “Wonderful, Merciful Savior” and “In Christ Alone” It is a hard thing, but in order to be authentic with our congregation it is a necessity even if we cry while doing it.
Just want to let you know that I linked to this article on my WordPress blog.
My college’s Campus Crusade leadership meeting was last night, and we had an amazing discussion about this very topic: what do you do when circumstances suck, but God is still calling you to lead? This morning, reading this article was a blessing for me. I’ll be sharing it with the other students.
Nathan, thanks for the encouraging words. Glad the article could serve you all as you’re sharing the gospel on campus!
Praying for you!
John Piper’s “Life as a vapor” has a wonderful chapter I read today “Thanksgiving for the Lives of Flawed Saints”. God throughout history has glorified himself through the memory of men who have lifted His name despite of their flawed life.
As John Piper says in the book (I am paraphrasing and translating from spanish to english… jeje) “The lives of our christian heros are inspiring precisely because of that: they are imperfect just like us and they were great unlike us!… their imperfections give us hope that maybe God will use us for his glory… and they accomplishments inspire us to walk out of the ordinary.”
Your post Bob and the comments of those who have also shared their trials, are wonderful heroic stories that will be used by God to spark faith and courage in those who have the honor to read about them like me.
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Rom 15:4
We are far from being those heros God has lifted in the past… but we are to be an example to our brother and you Bob, Rob, Craig, Jamie, Julie (sorry if I left one behind) have done so.
Thanks Bob for the post and thank you guys for the comments. May we be inspired by the God of history who is constantly creating stories of faith through our lives for others to say “Glory to our amazing God”!
I was encouraged to read this article tonight while sitting in a hospital with my two year old girl, Katie. We live in TN but are in Cincinnati, Ohio for a three week stay at Shriners Hospital for Children. My daughter is going through the first of maybe 3 or 4 skin-graft surgeries. While her condition is not life-threatening, I understand this topic of “leading in the midst of trials.”
It is a tough thing to watch your child (or grandchild) go through these struggles and in Katie’s case, a lot of physical pain. I wish that I could lay on the bed for her and take the pain on myself, but I know and am confident that through these years of pain that will follow for her that God will do “exceeding, abundantly above all that we could ask or think.”
I too am the worship leader at my church. I pray that God will be magnified in all because His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than ours.
My worship with God is a source of strength and security that cannot be found anywhere else. Praise the Lord for a personal God who knows our trials and is acquainted with our grief!
Dan, thanks for your comment. I pray Katie’s surgeries are painless, smooth, and successful. Thanks for being faithful to draw upon the riches of grace in Christ during this season. It will have an effect on those you lead.
My prayers go out to you and your family. My daughter was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancerous tumour almost 8 years ago. She has been through so much in her life and still has the cancer now but its a waiting game as the matastese are not growing. She is the reason that I came back to the Lord and it’s been so uplifting to teach her about our Lord Jesus Christ. To look at her she is like a normal 8 year old, I take so much heart from her the way she takes all her hospital visits in her stride and the way deals with life. The Lord does some amazing things.
She is looking forward to NWA this Easter and loves telling her friends about her week away and about why she is going – to spend time with friends who love Jesus, and going swimming and drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows!!!!
Alyson, thanks for your kind and encouraging words! Jack is doing well now. Has three years of treatments to go, but it’s in the realm of “maintenance.” God has been very kind to us. As he always is.
You know amazing on here has been used quite a bit, But Our Lord is that and then some isn’t He! I’m smiling as I write this because, I just read you blog and some of the storys written.Its all senking in. I just met you for the first time thursday on the plane. I think you must have just recieved the results of Jack’s illness the day before and wow! And God you used you to encourage me, going through cancer now for 9 years! God is certainly in all the details isnt He. i’m learning this over and over. He always has suprises and ways of revieling Himself on the journey in some of darkest of hours or years
~We remember, we see the light and have fellowship along the way!
GOD YOU ARE SO GOOD!Yes many shall proclaim His goodness and sing His Praise!God is soo God!
And yes nothing is greater than what Jesus did for us on the cross. Thanks Bob Im praying for you, Jack and family.
Kimberly, thanks for reading my blog! Actually, this post is from a couple years ago. Jack is doing much better, has about a year’s worth of treatment left. Thanks for your prayers!
Good to hear about Jack, one more yr to go w/ trmt!
I’m loving the Praise songs on here with the videos. So glad i have been able to listen!
I’m at my lowest point of my life right now, tirades and blows from the enemy are just too many, that only by God’s grace that I’m still surviving…
Thanks for this comforting and encouraging post.