Prodigal Magazine

Praise The God Who Takes Away

It is rare to find a person who praises God when they don’t get something they are asking for, and maybe even more rare to find a person who praises God when they get the opposite.

I often have a hard time believing God is for me no matter the circumstances.

It is easier to believe that He is out to get me, or that He has forgotten about me all together. It is a victim mentality.

I had a moment like this earlier this year. Ally and I had just gotten married and moved to Florida, far away from her family in Oregon. It was a long move and a difficult transition. One day she confided in me that she would really regret if anything happened to her dad while we were living so far away. She even uttered the words, “heart attack.”

As a husband, my first instinct was to calm her anxiety.

Yes, it’s difficult to move far away from family, but a heart attack was out of the question. Her dad was healthy. Her fear was unwarranted. Nothing like that was going to happen to her family.

So it came as a major surprise when Ally called me at work a couple weeks later, hardly able to breathe as she tried to explain what had happened.

“My sister… (GASP)… just called… (GASP)… my dad… (GASP)… (LONG PAUSE).. had a heart attack.”

It felt like a cruel joke. This had been her biggest fear, and it had come true. This is one of those moments when you want to become resentful of God, that he would subject you to something like this. But God was inviting Ally and I into something. Something far more beautiful than understanding.

He was inviting us to trust.

For the first time in my life I felt the Lord calling me to praise Him in the midst of trail. I was afraid to bring it up as we were driving home from my office that day. I felt like it would come across as really insensitive, but I just couldn’t shake it. God was speaking something to me, and I needed to share it with Ally.

I looked over at her, and said, “Lets praise God in the midst of this situation. He is in control, and I believe He is for us even though we don’t understand right now.”

I am not even sure I believed what I was saying it as I said it, but something about it felt right.

In Matthew 8 Jesus is on a boat with his disciples in the Sea of Galilee. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a storm comes and shakes the boat so violently that waves come over the side. The disciples are freaking out, and Jesus is taking a nap at the bottom of the boat. The disciples come and wake Jesus up, begging him to save them. Jesus gets up, calms the storm and asks the disciples why they had no faith.

I have heard this passage taught at church my whole life, and it went something like this:

Life is full of storms, if you just ask Jesus to calm your storm He will. Why wouldn’t he after all? He is our personal savior, saving us from all of life’s problems.

But if this is our theology, when dads have heart attacks and we lose our jobs and people die in car accidents, we wonder what happened to our personal savior. It would have been really easy to feel like this with Steve in the hospital. We were in the midst of a storm. Why wasn’t Jesus calming it?

I think something is missing from the teaching of this passage I’ve always heard:

Jesus didn’t just rebuke the waves, and calm them. He also rebuked the lack of faith in His disciples.

I often wonder if what Jesus wanted was for his disciples to come to the bottom of the boat, curl up, and take a nap with him. Then, he wouldn’t have needed to calm the storm.

I think Jesus wanted the disciples to trust in the midst of the storm, not after the storm. And I think he wants the same from us today in the face of heart-attacks and the unknown of every day life.

He is inviting us to trust Him in the midst of all the storms of life. He has us. He is for our good, even when the waves are crashing over the side of the boat and we don’t understand.

We are all Prodigals and there is a good father waiting for our hearts to come back home.

Do you believe that?

[photo: Lorenzo Sernicola, Creative Commons]

About The Author

Darrell is a the founder of Prodigal Press, a storytelling firm based in Minneapolis, and senior editor of Prodigal Magazine. His life’s passion is to help people tell their story so they can see and understand the truth of God at work in their lives. You can follow him on twitter at @dvest.

  • http://twitter.com/diana_dawn Diana Palka

    “Jesus didn’t just rebuke the waves, and calm them. He also rebuked the lack of faith in His disciples…He is inviting us to trust Him in the midst of all the storms of life. He has us. He is for our good, even when the waves are crashing over the side of the boat and we don’t understand.”

    This is perhaps the simplest – yet most beautiful – commentary on Matthew 8. Thank you for sharing this and for challenging me (among others). I can’t help but be reminded of one of my favorite quotes by C.S. Lewis, ““Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.”

    Trusting God is something I need to be broken to do day after day after day after day.

    • http://darrellvesterfelt.com/ Darrell Vesterfelt

      Thanks Diana, that is humbling.

      I think it is a life long pursuit to deny our humanity and trust the Lord.

  • http://twitter.com/Cr8forHim Mitchell Roush

    “I think Jesus wanted the disciples to trust in the midst of the storm,
    not after the storm. And I think he wants the same from us today in the
    face of heart-attacks and the unknown of every day life.”

    This cut me deep for all the right reasons. Thank you for being vulnerable enough to share your story. The Holy Spirit definitely anointed this aspect of your life and these words.
    PHILIPPIANS 3:3

    • http://darrellvesterfelt.com/ Darrell Vesterfelt

      Thanks Mitchell. I believe that we all have stories in our lives that are anointed to “cut” each other deep.

  • Pingback: Vesterfelt: Praise The God Who Takes Away

  • http://www.facebook.com/BeckyCastleMiller Becky Castle Miller

    I think this is the same reason God allows “thorns in the flesh.” Sometimes He seems to allow pains that continually perplex us to keep our trust in Him fresh.

    • http://darrellvesterfelt.com/ Darrell Vesterfelt

      It is His kindness that we can find him despite the pain we endure. I don’t think God hurts us on purpose, but I think he is a good Father who isn’t over protective from a very real world.

  • Lisa L Keck

    Love the idea of taking a nap with Jesus. Thanks for this post.

    • http://darrellvesterfelt.com/ Darrell Vesterfelt

      I love naps, and I think Jesus does too. :)

  • Kandace

    I love the protection you felt for your wife and your gentle boldness to speak what needed to be said in the midst of your storm.

    • http://darrellvesterfelt.com/ Darrell Vesterfelt

      Thanks Kandace. I felt like a coward in the moment, afraid to say what I was feeling needed to say. I am thankful for grace in the moment.

  • http://twitter.com/runfreetrl Trish

    I think you have challenged me today to praise God in the hard times. Right now there seems to be a lot of that around, I need him more than ever. Thank you.

    • http://darrellvesterfelt.com/ Darrell Vesterfelt

      He doesn’t promise to fix all our problems but he does promise he will be with us.

  • Mary Ann Harmon

    I have went through many trials and really at times “did not praise God” in the midst at first but now my husband and I are giving “God all of the glory” through these trials. I really needed to read this article. Thanks so much for the reminder.

    • http://darrellvesterfelt.com/ Darrell Vesterfelt

      Mary Ann, I think its a life time pursuit to be able to praise him in the midst of the storms.

  • http://aparchedsoul.com/ Grayson Pope (A Parched Soul)

    “I think Jesus wanted the disciples to trust in the midst of the storm, not after the storm.” Such good words. Thanks Darrell.

    • http://darrellvesterfelt.com/ Darrell Vesterfelt

      Glad it spoke to you Grayson

  • http://youaremygirls.com/ Jennifer Camp

    This morning I just engaged with friends in talking about this same scene, in Mark 4. We shared whether we felt we had the faith to curl up next to Jesus, while He was sleeping–waves rising and water freezing our feet–knowing He had the storm under control. I love that Jesus responds when we call out to Him–but I imagine it is how I am calling out to Him, whether or not I am trusting Him, in the midst of trials, that reveals my true heart. Yes, I am challenged here, in my faith. Thank you so much for your thoughtful post.

    • http://darrellvesterfelt.com/ Darrell Vesterfelt

      Thanks for sharing Jennifer. Isn’t great when things come up all at the same time?

  • http://KatieAxelson.com/ Katie Axelson

    That’s one of my favorite stories in the Gospels. I love picturing 12 men screaming like little girls.
    Ally’s fear is also one of my worst fears–being 900 miles from my four living grandparents (and the rest of my family too).

  • Pingback: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego « Becoming What We Already Are…

  • http://www.eileenknowles.com Eileen

    Great reminder to praise in the midst of the storm. I live 2300 miles away from family. In May, my dad had a stroke that left him paralyzed and bed-ridden. 7 months later and he still can’t get out of bed by himself. It breaks my heart not to live closer. God has been teaching me so much this year about giving thanks to Him IN all circumstances. He is working even if I can’t see it.

  • Paula

    I needed this today. I was immediately reminded of the lyrics to Casting Crown’s “Praise You in This Storm.” Thank you.

  • Jen

    this article is confirmation that leaning on God in all circumstances for the greater good. When you are put in a situation like loosing a job, it’s in that moment God’s glory can be revealed on how you act. That’s what’s it’s been like for me. While I’ve had a job, I’ve been applying for new ones. As soon as I found out I was getting laid off, I landed to two interviews this past week. With God’s provision I potentially won’t go jobless after being laid off.

  • Flora Noronha

    Thank you for your post… Just out of curiosity, what happened to her dad? How were you both strengthened by praising God?