How Can We Praise God During the Hard Times?

Most people will tell you it is easy to praise God when things are going well, but it’s not so easy to praise Him when life throws you a curveball. We have been thrown a curveball over these last couple of years.  Many of us have had a hard year. Right now, you might be struggling to thank and praise God. You might be having a hard time thinking about what you are going to voice to your family as you sit around the table and talk about what you are thankful for.

While many of you have most likely had a hard year, while our churches have had a hard year, I want to give you some reasons why you can thank and praise God this Thanksgiving. Habakkuk is probably not a book you venture to too often. He is one of the Minor Prophets, but his message is not minor. It is powerful. It provides several reasons we can praise God, even when life is difficult.

In chapter 3 of his book he says,

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” (Hab 3:17–19, ESV)

Habakkuk faced difficulties but he still found a way to praise and worship the Lord. How is that?
How can Habakkuk promise to rejoice in the Lord when everything around him is crumbling? When he is facing hardship and suffering loss, what is it that allows him to take joy in God?

What is it that allows us to praise God when things are difficult? I believe Habakkuk clues us into four truths in these three verses that allow us to thank God even in the difficult times.

(1) We can praise God in difficult times because God is unchanged (v.17)

Looking at verse 17, we see that Habakkuk paints a picture of loss for us. Specifically he envisions losing things that are vital to their economy.

  • The fig tree is not going to blossom
  • Fruit will not be found on the vine
  • The olive trees will cease production
  • The fields will yield no harvests
  • The cattle and sheep will be lost

Losing all these things at once would put a major strain on the economy and the people of the land.

We know this to be true. Over the last couple of years our country experienced economic hardship because of COVID. People have lost their jobs, their homes. Inflation is on the rise.

COVID has not only effected the economy, it has also effect us personally. Some people have had to go without food and other basic necessities. Others have seen their marriages erode. Still others have lost loved ones. Others have lost their homes. Some have had to move away from friends and family to find work.

Surely, everything everyone has faced over these last couple of years has caused: An immense amount of stress, worry, anxiety, and tension.

I am sure Habakkuk felt these things too. But look at how he responds in verse 18: 

“yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Hab 3:18)

How can that be? How can Habakkuk rejoice? How can he take joy in God? He is able to rejoice, thank, and praise God because God is unchanging.

Habakkuk says he will rejoice in the “Lord” — Yahweh — the great I AM. The One who is eternal and unchanging.

While things in this world change, God doesn’t!

In Malachi 3:6 we read,

““For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Mal 3:6)

In Hebrews 13:8, we learn:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb 13:8)

God doesn’t change! Since God doesn’t change, we can rejoice!

We can be thankful, even though everything around us changes because we know we can count on the Lord. His promises to us will not go unanswered.

(2) We can praise God in difficult times because we have salvation (v.18)

As much as we would like to think life is stable and certain, it isn’t. In reality, we are never far from problems in this life.

Not too long ago my dad told me about a guy on his softball team who was diagnosed with stomach cancer. One week he was playing alongside my dad in a softball tournament. The next week he was sitting in a doctor’s office being told he had stage 4 stomach cancer for which there was nothing they could do. He died in a matter of months.

Life is fragile and uncertain.

Or take my mom for instance. One day she noticed that one of her fingertips was turning black. After a series of tests, she was diagnosed with Scleroderma, a disease that changed her life and ultimately took it.

Life is fragile and uncertain.

Or consider my grandma. One night she went to bed just as she always did. At some point in the middle of the night, she had a stroke, which left half her body paralyzed and her unable to speak. She lived the rest of her life in a nursing home being cared for 24 hours a day.

Life is fragile and uncertain.

In February of last year, we heard about a new virus that was ravaging China. Eventually it made its way to the States. In March of 2020, life as we know it changed. Most everyone here has experienced some sort of loss because of COVID.

Life is fragile and uncertain.

But God is not fragile! God is not uncertain! Our salvation does not hang in the balance, it is a sure thing.  Everything else can be taken from us — Our job, house, health, ability to communicate, our freedom, and even our life, but our salvation is certain. In Romans 8:1 Paul writes,

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Ro 8:1)

Those who have repented of their sins and believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior are no longer in fear of God’s punishment. That’s because Jesus has taken our punishment for us. When Jesus died on the cross, God’s wrath was poured out on Him, and all those who are in Christ no longer have to fear His judgment because there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”

Since God is unchanged our salvation is always certain. For that we can be thankful, even in the uncertainties and difficulties of life. Since our salvation is certain we can and should praise God!

(3) We can praise God in difficult times because God is Sovereign (v.19)

God being sovereign means that He is in control of everything. As the One who is in control, He either causes or allows everything to happen according to His eternal decree. Hearing that might make us uncomfortable because it means there are things that happen that God could have stopped but doesn’t. But while God’s sovereignty may initially make us uncomfortable, it ultimately should comfort us because it means God is in control and He can and will work all things out according to His eternal plan. Isn’t that what we learn God is doing in the book of Romans? In Romans 8:28 we read,

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Ro 8:28)

When Paul says this, he doesn’t mean that everything will work out just hunky-dory for those who are Christians. Or that every bad thing actually has a “silver lining” Or that every terrible thing is somehow actually a good thing if you learn to look at it properly. That is not what Paul is saying.

Instead what he is saying is that God will ultimately use everything in our lives to glorify Himself and bring us to salvation. The only way that can happen is if God is sovereign.Is if He is in control of everything. Indeed He is, which is why He can work all things for good.

Even the difficult things we face have a purpose — it is meant to bring us to salvation and to glorify God.
We may not understand how that is the case, but God does. Since God is sovereign we can praise and thank Him even in difficult times.

(4) We can be thankful in difficult times because we are triumphant in Christ (v. 19)

In Christ, we are triumphant over the evil in our lives now because none of it will separate us from God (Rom. 8:31-39). We will be triumphant over our enemies in the future when Jesus returns because He will vindicate us and destroy our enemies once and for all (Rev. 19-22).

Before Jesus returns, we will face difficult situations, but none of them will ultimately defeat us because God will keep us in Christ. In Christ, we will be and are victorious and triumphant. When we face difficult situations, we should thank God because He gives us the strength to continue in the faith, and He will one day free us from those situations, conquering our enemies and ushering in a New Heavens and New Earth where we will live in sinless perfection for all eternity.

Conclusion

When you face difficulties in this life, and you will, don’t run from God, rather run to Him, praising and thanking Him for all you have in Him despite the difficulties and hardship you are experiencing.

It is not easy but by remembering that:

  • God doesn’t change.
  • He provides us with salvation.
  • He is Sovereign.
  • He causes us to be triumphant in Christ.

Knowing and resting in these truths about God, should make it possible for us to stand and say with Habakkuk, 

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” (Hab 3:18–19)”

Question for Reflection

  1. What else allows us to praise the Lord during difficult times?

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God alone is your Deliverer who deserves your exclusive worship

And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”” (1 Sa 7:3)

To worship the Lord is to forsake the worship of other gods. The Lord tells us in Exodus 20 that He is the One who provides redemption (Exodus 20:2). No other god saved the Israelites from slavery and bondage in Egypt. It was Yahweh alone who freed and saved them from continued bondage and certain death. 

Since God alone provides redemption, we are not to worship any other gods (Exodus 20:3). We are to exclusively worship the Lord. He will not compete for our affections. He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). Jealous for His own glory because it is His glory that provides us with joy. 

Worship involves giving our whole life to the Lord, not just an hour or two once a week during a worship service. Worship means exclusively looking to the Lord for wisdom and direction. It involves us giving our entire life to the Lord. 

Indeed, He alone is worthy of our worship because He redeems us from slavery and death as well. The slavery of sin and the eternal punishment of death. Through Christ a New Exodus occurs. We are led out of bondage to the promised land of an eternal kingdom with Christ as our God and King. 

Today, if you are to worship the Lord, don’t let anything stand between you and God. Don’t allow any other gods to steal your affections. Don’t allow any idols to come between you and God. Don’t put your trust and hope in earthly things such as wealth, status, career, pleasure, sports, and even family. Yes, even good things can be idols –those things that come between us and God. Instead, turn to the Lord alone, giving Him exclusive worship. For He alone is your Deliverer!

We have more than we deserve, bless the Lord all His saints

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pe 1:3-5)

We are such a blessed people. Not only has the Father given His only Son so that we might experience salvation from His wrath. But He has caused us to be born again to a living hope. A hope that will not perish or be defiled. It will not fade. Instead, it is kept in the most secure place possible — it is kept in heaven.

When Jesus returns, He will bring His kingdom with Him. A kingdom that is perfect. One that will never be defeated. One that will last for all eternity. Finally, when Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom, we will be able to experience life as God designed. There will be no sickness, no death, no disunity, no racism, no winter storms. There will be nothing that hinders our ability to live as God has designed.

We can trust that will take place because Jesus was raised from the dead. After three days in the grave — there was no way He was just faking it — He rose from the dead. After interacting with well over 500 people for 40 days, He ascended into heaven in front of the disciples. He promised to come back. His promise is guaranteed because we have been sent the Holy Spirit who works in our life day in and day out.

We are a blessed people. As blessed people, we should bless God. We should praise Him. We should submit our lives to Him giving Him His due worship by allowing Him to guide and direct our lives instead of trying to guide and direct it ourselves.

Blessed the Lord all those who have experienced God’s blessing. We have much more than we deserve.

By the Grace of God, you are a gift for Jesus’ glory

“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power,” (2 Thess 1:11)

We need the prayers of the saints for our growth. As believers, we are to look after and encourage one another. We should desire to see the best for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. What could be better than their growth in Christlikeness.

Becoming more like Christ means we become more like the people God originally designed us to be. When we live according to God’s designed, life generally goes well for us. Even if we experience difficulties such as persecution or set back, we can have joy. Joy because we have hope. Hope for a future when we will see Jesus in all His glory. Joy because even in the difficulties we are able to accomplish our purpose in life, which is to glorify God. In verse 12, Paul reveals the end to which he prays,

“so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thess 1:12)

The end is Jesus glory in us and us in Him. Jesus is ultimately glorified in us, not by our work, but by the grace of God. In this way, we are a gift to Jesus for His glory. What a privilege it is to be used by the Creator of the world, the King over all, the All Sovereign Lord as a gift to His Son for His glory and our own.

We should worship the One who rescues us.

Jonah worships the Lord. In Jonah 2 9, we read:

“But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay.”

(Jon 2:9).

Recognizing God is the One who saves, Jonah worships God. Which is what we should do as well. We should worship the Lord.

The great thing is you don’t have to wait until Sunday to worship God. Worship is more than coming here on Sunday mornings and singing a few songs and hearing a sermon. You can worship God throughout the week.

You can worship God by:

  • Reading His Word
  • Praying
  • Telling others about Him
  • Ministering to those in need
  • Obeying God’s Word

There are other ways we can worship Him as well. But the point is we can worship God every single day.
We should worship God daily.

If we are going to be daily worshippers, we must constantly set our minds on the things above. One thing we should set our mind on is the gospel. We must preach the gospel to ourselves daily, constantly so as to remind ourselves that Jesus died for us. He shed His blood for our sins so that we might have life. That salvation is free and those who desire it need only to repent and turn to Jesus. Those who call Jesus their Lord and Savior experience salvation.

How amazing is that? Jesus died for us. He willingly gave His life to redeem His enemies from sin and the Father’s Wrath. He gave His life for those who want nothing to do with God. How amazing is that?

When we think about what God has done for us, how He has rescued us from our idols and saved us in Jesus, we should be driven to worship, not just on Sunday morning, but every day.

God is not a God of confusion

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” (1 Cor 14:33a)

Indeed our God is not a God of confusion. He desires His people have order and understanding. God’s desire is one reason we have His Word. It provides us understanding as well as it helps us know how we are to operate so that there is order.

As Paul begins to bring his letter to the Corinthians to a close, he deals with order in the church. He specifically highlights prophecy over tongues because prophecy provides understanding whereas tongues has a high potential to confuse.

When the church gathers together, understanding and order should be at the top of the list. We are not gathering together to make much of ourselves, rather we gather to make much of Jesus. Nor do we gather to confuse one another and hinder outsiders from understanding the gospel. Instead, we are to teach, encourage, reprove, and rebuke with God’s Word. In other words, we are to build one another up in the Lord. Disorder and confusion do not lead to building up of the body of Christ nor does it lead others to an understanding of the gospel and salvation. In most instances, disorder and confusion leads to stagnation and even decline.

May we be a church that seeks to build one another up in the Lord by intelligently speaking the Word of the Lord to one another in an orderly fashion when we gather.