God, when You choose“Even If” by MercyMe
To leave mountains unmovable
Give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul
I (semi-artistically) scribbled those lyrics on an old notecard and placed it on my desk shortly after I heard “Even If” on the radio for the first time in early 2017. That notecard has been sitting on my desk ever since.
Why? Because, like so many people, I have faced (more than) my share of unmovable mountains and when I heard those lyrics, something inside of me just couldn’t stop repeating them.
“God, when You choose/To leave mountains unmovable/Give me the strength to be able to sing/It is well with my soul…”
Yes, He could move them and sometimes He does. But sometimes He doesn’t, and what does that mean for our faith when He doesn’t?
What does it mean for our faith when we continue to have mental and physical health struggles, money troubles, strained relationships, unanswered prayers, or loved ones pass away? What does it mean when the mountain that we’ve desperately prayed for Him to move doesn’t even budge an inch?
What does it mean when our faith is tested in the fire of affliction and trials?
Does it mean that God doesn’t love us? Well, at first glance that may be what our humanity (and the enemy) tries to make us believe. But then we remember all of the heroes of the faith and how they didn’t exactly have happy-go-lucky lives either. And since most of us would never even dare to say we have as much faith as they did, then I guess if they had trials we ought to expect them as well. (Now that’s not always exactly a comforting thought, but sometimes it can help to remember that we’re in good company when we’re in the fire!)
Take for example, Job.
In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.Job 1:1
So, Job was one of those that you could say had a strong faith, right?
But we know the story…
One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD.Job 1:6-12
Job is a hard book to read for several reasons, not least of which being that here we are given a clear example of the fact that yes, God does actually allow suffering. It doesn’t slip by Him unawares, He actually allows it and that’s a pretty hard pill to swallow.
It goes back to the age-old question: why would a good God allow suffering?
There are a number of reasons, one of which being the fact that He gives humans free will, but that’s clearly not the reason in this story with Job.
So what is the reason? I’m no theologian, so I won’t presume to give an educated answer for this one. I’ll merely share a few thoughts on why God might have allowed this trial in Job’s life.
Maybe it was to test Job’s faith, to see if He would continue to praise God even when His circumstances were no longer prosperous. Maybe it was to see how Job would react when his friends wrongfully accused him. Maybe it was so that the entire future of humanity would have the story of Job as an example for how to endure suffering.
If I were Job, I know that none of those reasons would have really made me feel much better. But aren’t we, all these thousands of years later, thankful that we have his story to encourage us in our lives today?
I know that for me personally, my greatest role-models and heroes are not people who had fairytale lives, but instead are those who continued to proclaim God’s faithfulness even in the midst of painful situations. And I would venture to assume that I am not alone in that.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ1 Corinthians 1:3-5
And then there’s Paul.
…Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.1 Corinthians 12: 7-9
Why didn’t God remove Paul’s “thorn”?
I mean, Paul was not exactly a nobody. He wrote most of the New Testament, he witnessed to large sections of the then-known world, he refused to deny his faith even under torture (and later death), he became one of the loudest apologists of the 1st century. In short, he was definitely not lacking in faith.
And yet here in this story we have another example of God allowing the faithful to suffer.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
And maybe that’s another reason.
When we are weak we realize how useless and unworthy we are on our own. When we are weak we realize just how much we need a Savior. When we are weak, we are forced to rely on Him, and only when we do that can He fully show us just how strong He is.
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
So here we are back to the beginning again. When the mountain stays unmoved, when the thorn is not taken away, when the suffering and the pain and the heartache continue in spite of our doing ‘all the right things’, what then?
What are we to do when our prayers are not answered the way that we want them to be? Well, maybe we’re supposed to sing. Maybe we’re supposed to worship. Maybe we’re supposed to keep believing that our God is still good even when our circumstances aren’t.
Maybe that’s what faith really looks like.
God, when You choose to leave mountains unmovable, give me the strength to be able to sing ‘It is well with my soul.’