In the very midst of life’s deepest pains and most gut-wrenching losses, God loves to give a strange and wonderful gift. We cry out for healing, or relief, or some pressing change in our circumstances. Sometimes God answers those cries. But even more often, he gives us something more supernatural: praise.
For Shane Barnard, it came in the hospital room at the passing of his father. When the doctor informed Barnard and his mother that his father was dead, the flood of pain and shock came. Barnard’s mother wasn’t able to stand and began hyperventilating, so great was the pain and loss. As Barnard held his mother to comfort her, he says, as she wailed, she sang softly underneath her breath, the words of Job 1:21,
He gives, he takes, blessed be the name of the Lord.
Barnard remembers it as a beautiful cry, not only in her tone and pitch, but in her vocalizing her deep trust in God, even while neck-deep in the tides of pain and loss. It was “the most painful room,” says Barnard, “but there was so much joy” as they turned their hearts together to worship in the hardest moment of their lives — which became the inspiration for the song “Though You Slay Me.”
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
Great Pain, Greater God
It is supernatural — an evidence of the Holy Spirit at work — when praise wells up in our souls in the midst of our greatest pains. It is a taste of Job 13:15, where Job, in the vortex of such great sufferings, makes this beautiful declaration of allegiance to God: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.”
By no means does such praise mean the pain is lessened. The hurt is every bit as real. But such a supernaturally inspired testimony to God does testify, Even as great as this pain is, God is greater. My desire to have this pain removed, or this loss restored, or these hurtful circumstances altered, must not eclipse my desire for the God who is powerful enough to remove it, or restore it, but is loving me in a way that is greater than I can understand.
Where Else Would We Go?
Such anguished allegiance brings to mind Peter’s great declaration to Jesus in John 6. There Jesus has just scared off a large crowd with some of his most controversial and misunderstood teaching in all the Gospels. The once-adoring crowds have raced for the exits. John 6:66 tells us, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” Jesus then says to his disciples, “Do you want to go away as well?” (John 6:67).
Peter answers just as powerfully as he does when Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) — if not more powerfully, given these circumstances. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Most Precious Praises of All
So it is in our times of greatest pain and loss, when we do not curse the one who is in control, but instead fall to our knees and utter with Job: You gave, and you have taken away; blessed be your name, Lord. Though you slay me, yet I will praise you.
It is powerful to praise God in any season, but these are the most precious praises of all, when we cling to Christ in life’s most horrible moments, knowing that he has walked our path, felt our barb, received our nail, and that suffering is precisely the place where we will know him best (Philippians 3:10).
My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes
I’ll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I’ll know every tear was worth it all
Watch a special Desiring God recording of Shane & Shane singing “Though You Slay Me,” with a preaching excerpt from John Piper.