Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Thankful When It's Difficult

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth giving us one reason why tough circumstances can be good.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: How else would you see what a selfish, angry person you are if you didn’t have circumstances that brought it out? How else would we know that we needed to be changed? How else would we come to brokenness and humility and surrender to God if He didn’t create circumstances in our lives to let us know we’ve got spiritual needs?

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, November 23, 2017. 

Even though there’s a whole holiday dedicated to it, plenty of people don’t feel much like giving thanks today. If the events of life seem to be conspiring against your joy, keep listening. Nancy will help you recognize God’s goodness even when you don’t feel like giving thanks.

She’s walking through Psalm 66 sharing her heart along the way. Here’s verse 1.

Nancy: “Shout for joy to God all the earth.” By the way, Scripture teaches us that one day all the earth will shout for joy to the Lord. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. So even though we’re in the minority—the praisers are in the definite minority right now—the day will come when all the earth: kings, rulers, nations, peoples, all will bow, sing, and shout and acknowledge that Christ is Lord.

Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, "How awesome are your deeds! (vv. 1–3). 

Remember, that word awesome is a word we really should reserve for God because there is nothing and there is no one other than God who is truly awesome.

We kind of throw that word around today. You especially hear it from teenagers—“That’s awesome!” Well, the fact is, God is the one who is truly and only truly awesome. So say it to God. Say praises to God.

"How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you” (v. 3). 

As we read this psalm, just look at some of the things we’re to give thanks to God for: His deeds. We’re so forgetful. Our forgetters work real well. But if we’ll stop and think about what God has done—what God has done in the pages of Scripture that we have revealed.

That’s not just something for the Israelites to give thanks to God for. That’s something for us to recount and remember what God did.

I remember when I saw for the first time the scene in The Ten Commandments—the Charlton Heston version—and saw the scene of the Red Sea crossing. It was so magnificent. I’m sure not as magnificent on the movie as it actually was when it happened, but it gave me a picture of more than I’d had before of what it is God did in that moment.

The deeds of God are majestic and powerful. That’s what he talks about here. He says, “Great is Your power.” So we give thanks to God recalling His deeds, but not only deeds that He has done for others, but the deeds He’s done for us. The deeds He’s done for those we love.

We’ve been sharing here this morning some of the deeds of God. Hasn’t it been encouraging to just hear others share? “This is how God restored the years that the locust have eaten in my family. I wasn’t a good mother,” one woman said, “when my children were younger, but now God’s giving me an opportunity to redeem that situation.”

You may not be in that situation, but you’ve heard now the deeds of God, and we’re saying to the Lord, “Your deeds are awesome, and Your power is great. Your power is so great that Your enemies come cringing to You.”

Sometimes it seems like the enemies of God are stronger than God. Now, we wouldn’t say it that way, but it seems like evil is so overpowering in our world. But keep in mind the big picture. In the big picture, God’s power is so great that one day all of His enemies will come cringing to Him. They will bow. They will submit.

All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name (v. 4).

How will the earth learn to sing praises to His name if His children don’t? You see, we demonstrate to the world by our praise the greatness of the name of God; and His name, of course, is reflective of His character, His ways, and His heart.

Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. He turned the sea into dry land (vv. 5–6).

He is remembering what he had heard from his father, who heard it from his father, who heard it from his father what God had done.

  • Are your children and grandchildren learning the ways of God through what you’re telling them?
  • How well do your children know the stories of the Bible?
  • How well do your grandchildren know the stories of the Bible?
  • Are you telling to them, “Come and hear. Come and let me tell you. See what God has done.” Are you reminding them of what it was like?

I’m so thankful to have grown up in a home and a Christian school where we were continually hearing the deeds of God, learning these stories. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized they’re not just stories. That’s who God is. That’s what reveals God to me.

So the story of the exodus:

He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There did we rejoice in him, who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations—let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah

When you see that word, that means stop and think about that. Ponder that. His eyes keep watch on the nations.

Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip. For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried (vv. 6–10).

Now keep in mind, this paragraph is in the context of a praise psalm. So as we praise the Lord, we not only praise Him for His wonderful deeds of deliverance to others in the past, but now the psalmist is saying, “Lord, I’m going to let the sound of Your praise be heard. I’m going to bless You, and here’s what You have done in my life: You’ve kept my soul among the living. You have given me eternal, spiritual life. You have not let our feet slip.”

Sometimes it looked like they were going to, but think of how many times the Lord has kept us from slipping into sin, from slipping into disaster, and from falling in a way that we would stay down. Proverbs says the righteous man falls seven times, but he gets up again each time. God has protected us. He’s our keeper. I thank the Lord that He is the one who keeps me from sin. He is the one who keeps my feet from falling.

But verse 10 says there are times, and again, this is in the context of praise, that there are times God has tested us. He has tried us as silver is tried. He’s in a refining process with our lives, and that means there’s heat involved; there’s fire involved; there’s pressure involved; there’s testing involved.

We’ve talked on Revive Our Hearts how God sometimes gives us pop quizzes or mid-term exams or final exams to see if we learned the material we’ve been taught. That’s how a teacher finds out if we learned the lesson—gives a test. God gives us tests, and that’s something to thank Him for.

Praise God when He does. Don’t resent it. Don’t run from it. Don’t try and get out of it. Don’t try and manipulate your way out of it. Thank the Lord that He is testing, He is proving, He is trying, He’s refining. You want to come out like silver, pure, valuable? God is doing that through the means of trying us.

You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads (v. 11).

Who is behind all those actions? Who brought us into that net—looked like we were going to get caught? Who laid that crushing burden on our backs? Who let men ride over our heads? God, You did.

You don’t realize that it’s not that husband; it’s not that child; it’s not that parent; it’s not that boss; it’s not that ex-mate who is the one who is really making your life miserable. It’s God who is at work in your life, and He’s using that person; He’s using that circumstance; He’s using that health situation or that financial pressure or that oppressive person in your life.

God is using that person to slow you down, to get your attention, to refine your motives, to expose your heart.

  • How else would you see what a selfish, angry person you are if you didn’t have circumstances that brought it out?
  • How else would we know that we needed to be changed?
  • How else would we come to brokenness and humility and surrender to God if He didn’t create circumstances in our lives to let us know we’ve got spiritual needs?

You’ll likely spend much of your life as a bitter, angry person if you don’t come to recognize the hand of God behind the tests, that it’s a good and wise and loving God whose hand is on your life.

You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water (v. 12).

We went through fire and through water. As you think back to seasons of your life where you went through testings, through trials, through floods, through fires, do you thank the Lord? Now, it’s not so hard to thank Him after you’ve been through it, and you’ve seen His deliverance. The question is: Will you thank Him when you’re in the middle of it, when you’re walking through the Red Sea? When you’re right up against the Red Sea, and you can’t see how you’re going to get through it. Will you thank Him then?

“We went through fire; we went through water”—but I love the end of verse 12: “Yet You have brought us out.” Now, if the verse just ended there, that would be great enough. “You have brought us out. You’re the one who took us in, and You’re the one who’s brought us out.”

God will deliver you. Psalm 34 I think it is tells us, “God delivers the righteous. Not one of his bones will be broken. He delivers them out of all his troubles” (see vv. 19–20). 

You say, “But I’ve been in this troubled marriage for thirty-four years—that’s a long time.” It is a long time, but compared to eternity, it’s not long at all.

You say, “It doesn’t look like there will ever be any end.” I think of a dear pastor friend whose wife has had very severe, physical problems. She's been deteriorating for a number of years now. She’s been in constant pain, and it’s only getting worse, and you realize this could go on for a long, long time. But it’s been such a precious thing to watch the spirit of that man and his wife in the midst of their affliction.

You know why? Because they have hope that this will not be forever. Now, it may be for all of their lives while here on earth, but it will not be forever. They know that God has promised He will bring them out. Someday, in some way, He will. And God will bring you out. When you’re not sure that you will ever come out, look back on some past situations. If you can’t think of any in your own life, think of ones in someone else’s life.

Look at ones in the Scripture where people were hopelessly hemmed in by problems and opposition and the enemy and insurmountable circumstances, and read how God brought them out. Go back and read about the Red Sea crossing, coming out of Egypt after 400 years of slavery. “You brought us out.” God will bring you out, so give Him thanks, even when you can’t see the way out.

But that’s not where that verse ends. It gets better. “You brought us out to a place of abundance” (v. 12). Don’t you love that?

Have you seen God do that in your own life in the past? I think through the first year of Revive Our Hearts, even before we went on the air. For about nine months before we went on the air, we were recording. People had told me that doing daily radio would be a challenge. One person who has a national daily radio ministry said to me when I was just thinking about doing it, “It will be like Pac-Man always after you, always chasing you, always trying to overcome you. It’s just relentless.”

People had tried to tell me that, but I had no idea until we really got started what it would mean to produce 260 programs of content every year, and it’s five days a week. I’d heard that, but once we got into it, oh my. For that first year, it did feel like fire and water covering and overwhelming all the time. I mean, just all the time I felt like I was this close to drowning.

God sent a lot of people to pray and to encourage and to help, and God’s grace was so great during that time. His presence was real even when I couldn’t feel it. Even when it didn’t seem that God was there, He really, truly was. I knew that by faith then. The thing I hung onto in those days was just knowing that God had called us into this ministry. But that’s about all I knew.

There were days that I thought, I don’t think I can survive this. I just really wondered, Will I come out alive? Will I come out through this?

But now we’ve been doing this for a lot longer, and I look back on that year, and it’s so true. God was testing; He was refining; He was exposing needs in my own life and in my own responses. He was showing me how much I need Him. He was increasing my sense of dependence upon Him. He brought me so many times to the place where I felt so utterly helpless to do what was needed.

As a mom, how many times have you felt that way? If you were left to your own, these children would never get raised, and certainly not raised right. Or you’ve felt you just could not live one more day with that man who does not know the Lord and is rough and harsh.

We’ve all got circumstances in life where we’ve felt so helpless, but it’s a good place to be because it's not until we realize how helpless we are do we cast ourselves upon God who is our helper. Not only did I find Him to be a helper through that year, as many of you have through years of fire and floods in your own lives, but it is so true as I look back that He has brought us out into a place of abundance.

I am actually enjoying doing Revive Our Hearts now. (laughter) Some of you wondered in the early days if that would ever happen. I remember during those days several people—a lot of people—asked me, “Are you enjoying doing radio?” I would look at them like, “How could you enjoy this? This is so hard!” Of course, I didn’t say that, but I was thinking it. Well, I did say it some, but I thought, Enjoy this? Yes, God called me to this, but this is not what I would call enjoyable.

But actually, I’m loving it. I’m enjoying it. That doesn’t mean that every day is enjoyable. When I’m studying and preparing for recording sessions, it’s challenging and stretching, and I still realize how much I need Him, but God has brought us out to a place of abundance. I’ve seen Him in my life over and over and over again take me through circumstances that I’ve thought, I cannot see how God’s going to cross this sea. I cannot see how He’s going to defeat the Egyptian army here. But He did, and He’s brought us out into a place of abundance.

Now, you may not be in that place yet, but you will be. There’s hope, and so often in the Christian life, that’s what keeps us going—just hope that God is, that He’s still there, that He’s not fallen asleep at the switch, that He’s not fallen off His throne. He’s there. He sees. He knows. He cares. He’s the one who has taken us into these circumstances.

Now, it may be that in some cases we have gotten into those circumstances because of our own wrong choices, but even then, the chastisement is the hand of God, and it’s merciful. It’s what one author calls, “a severe mercy.” That chastening hand of God is good. It’s a blessing. Thank Him for it.

Now that doesn’t mean that you want to walk into sin so that you can get the blessing of God’s chastisement, but it does mean that when God does send His disciplining, chastening hand, you can thank Him for it. Would you rather that God would just leave you in your sin? Of course not! So even when it’s our own wrong choices or our sinful choices that got us into this mess, as sometimes is the case . . . I read letters from women who have written to us at Revive Our Hearts, and many of them describe these awful, painful, troubling circumstances, many of them in relation to their marriage and their family.

In many cases, I read the story, and I’m thinking, Why did you ever get into that marriage that you knew was not God’s will for your life? Some, not all, but some of those women are reaping some of the painful consequences of their saying, “I want to have it my way.”

Yet God is merciful even there and even then. Although our natural reaction is, “Why did you get yourself into this situation?” God’s heart is, “You made the choices, but I am merciful. I’m going to discipline you. You will reap consequences of your choices, but you can still come out into a place of abundance.”

It may not be this moment, and it may not even be that your circumstances will ever change this side of heaven, but you can walk in freedom, in fullness, in fruitfulness. You can be filled with the Spirit no matter whether your husband walks with the Lord or not, no matter what your children is doing, no matter what your boss is doing. You can walk in the fullness and freedom of God’s Spirit.

You can live in a place of abundance now, and you have the assurance that the day is coming when you’ll be on the other side of that Red Sea, and you’ll be looking back as the waters cover the Egyptians, and God’s judgments will be executed. Even then you will say, “Lord, Your judgments are true and righteous altogether” because God is glorified even in His judgments.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been providing hope for anyone suffering the consequences of bad choices, and she’s been providing hope for anyone experiencing pain. Jesus knows what it’s like to suffer physical and emotional pain. He understands what you’re going through.

Nancy: He really does. He knows. He understands. He feels our pain. I know that even on this Thanksgiving day there are those whose eyes are filled with tears as you think about the circumstances you are going through that seem so difficult, so impossible. So on this Thanksgiving Day where many of us are joined with family and friends, there’s joy, there’s thankfulness, and there’s pain. And sometimes those come mingled together don’t they?

I’d like to pray for you at the close of this program, based on the words of Psalm 66.

We say to you oh Lord, regardless of our circumstances, regardless of what may be going on in your life this day, regardless of the happy things or the sad things or the hard things or the joyful things, we say to You, oh Lord, how awesome are Your deeds. How great is Your power. All the earth worships You, they will one day for sure. All the earth will sing praises to Your name.

So Lord, together we want to come and see what You have done and how awesome You are in Your deeds toward the children of man. We want to reflect on the things You've done in the past and the redemptive history—both in Scripture and in our own lives. How You've delivered us when we were captives to sin. You've set us free.

Lord, we want to bless Your name. We want the sound of Your praise to be heard, because You have kept our souls and You've not let our feet slip.

Yet, Lord, You have tested us. You've tried us as silver is tried. You've brought is into the net, and at times You've laid a crushing burden on our backs. Yet, You have brought us out, past tense, and You are bringing us out, present tense, to a place of abundance.

Lord, we want to cry out to You with our mouths, with our tongues, with praise, with renouncing sin in our hearts, to say thank You, Lord, for listening, for caring, for hearing. Thank You that You are writing a story that in time we will look back on, and we will remember how good You are—how great and how powerful.

So help us to do that today, by faith, because You are truly a God worthy of all our thanks and praise. We pray it in Jesus' name, amen.

Leslie: Tomorrow Nancy will be back to help us continuing to develop a grateful heart. Please join us for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you grow in thankfulness. It's an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.

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