Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. —James 1:17
We live in a world where change is constant. 2020 has certainly proven how quickly life can change and throw our lives into a tailspin. There are times when I appreciate and gladly anticipate change—like when I redecorate a room in my house. However, there are many times when I’m not keen or quick to embrace change in my life. Initially, I don’t always view it as a “perfect gift”. I resist, question, grumble, and complain.
Is there a change happening in your life? Perhaps the changes are exciting and filled with possibilities and anticipation. Perhaps the changes are rocking your world and not what you expected, desired, or anticipated. When change is hard and life is difficult it is easy to question God and ask why. It is easy to fall into the habit of grumbling, complaining, and questioning, which only fosters discouragement and anxiety.
Pause and Read Psalm 136.
Psalm 136 is a praise psalm that recounts Israel’s history of God working His plan, in His timing, among His people. The Israelites often grumbled, complained, questioned, and doubted God because they could not always see His plan taking shape. But what their veiled vision failed to comprehend was that the root of the problem was their own disbelief and disobedience. They had failed to believe, trust, and obey God. They soon find life as they know it is about to change! As a result of their repeated disobedience, the warnings God had given them came to fruition, and the Israelites found themselves in bondage in a foreign land. They cry out to God in their distress. God hears their cries and delivers them, and returns them to their land, as He promised and purposed from the beginning. Psalm 136 was written in this light. The people are remembering and rehearsing who God is and what He has done.
Psalm 136 is a beautiful assurance and reminder that we too can trust Him, even when we don’t understand it all. As believers on this side of the cross, we are the recipients of the fulfillment of God’s ultimate purpose in the redemption story. In Christ, we are given redemption, forgiveness, and new and eternal life. In Christ, we have been restored in relationship to God and our identity and purpose are tied to Christ Jesus. We are called to live glorifying God and enjoying Him forever (Augustine). Regardless of the changes and turmoil in our lives, we can rest in our identity and standing in Christ Jesus. Regardless of the changes and turmoil in the world, we can live to praise our Creator and Sustainer, who is immutable.
We can rest confidently in the fact that God is not surprised by our questions or difficulties in understanding. When we know who He is, we can trust and rest in His presence, even when our circumstances are beyond comprehension and out of our control. From Genesis to Revelation, the scriptures bear witness to the fact that God cares, God hears, and God fulfills His promises. Our infinite, transcendent, immanent God beckons us to cry out and to pour out our hearts to Him because He is our place of refuge (Ps 62:8).
- When our finite minds find it difficult to comprehend, we remember He is infinite and omniscient.
- When we feel as if we are losing control, we remember He is sovereign.
- When we are uncertain, we remember He is steadfast and immovable.
- When we feel abandoned, we remember He is immanent—near to us—and He hears our cry.
- When our world is shaking, we remember He is steadfast, trustworthy, and true.
There is one more lesson for us in Psalm 136. Did you notice the people’s response in the psalm? It’s found in the repeated refrain: “Give thanks to the Lord for His steadfast love endures forever”. The Psalms are Hebrew poetry and the Hebrew people did not separate praise from thanksgiving. Biblical Hebrew does not have a word for “thank/to give thanks,” rather the expression of thanks to God is included in praise—it is a way of praising.
What would be your Psalm 136? Consider writing out your story, recording your honest thoughts and emotions, but ending with the refrain from Psalm 136. And when you’re tempted to doubt, grumble, and complain remember to praise/give thanks, because His steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord knowing He is ever-present and always working in your life, and He does not change!
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” —Lamentations 3:22-24
Rejoicing in Jesus!