Years ago, when we had teens of our own, my husband and I would take large groups of teens yearly to a local theme park for a 3-day faith-based gathering filled with big-name Christian concerts, seminars, and spiritually relevant events. It was all we could do to afford tickets for this rag-tag bunch of teens so we arrived at the resort campgrounds with a dilapidated assortment of tents and tarps woefully pieced together. This event was always held during the first week of August and inevitably we encountered 3 days of non-stop rain pouring down on our beleaguered little encampment. The teens loved it and years later told us that they prayed for rain yearly because they loved the way God showed up and wove His miracles around their fun and relationships. Me? I never would have prayed for rain. My days were spent cooking and preparing food for those ever-hungry fiends, mending their upsets and emotional wounds, and making sure that they were accounted for and taken care of. It was a huge responsibility and I felt it.
After days of non-stop rain, the campground became a big, miry cesspool of tents, mud, and humanity. I was exhausted and cold and badly needed a hot shower. The bathrooms were communal so it took a lot of patience and a real desire for cleanliness to stand in line for the required half hour. One pair of clean jeans remained in my mud-deluged wardrobe and I determined that my life was going to change for the better if I were to have a shower and inhabit those jeans. Coincidentally, my husband was of the same mind, so we hopped in our truck and headed off to the closest bathhouse. The tires on our truck slipped and skidded through the field of mud and then, inevitably, got stuck. It took a large number of volunteers to push, tug, and exorcise our truck out of that black hole. After we were finally clear of the mud, my husband looked down to see that his last pair of jeans were covered in the brown remains of the campground. He, who is rarely frustrated, was frustrated!
We arrived at the bathhouse in silence and soberly went off to our respective gender-dictated shower rooms. As true to life as ever, my husband walked right into his side of the bathhouse and immediately was met with a hot shower. Not so for me. I stood in line for half an hour. Finally, a shower opened up and I pitifully squeezed behind the limp curtain. I was shaking all over from the cold and barely managed to shimmy out of my filthy clothes. In a matter of moments, however, I would have warm, soothing waves of water showering over me. How wrong I was. Instead, a flick of my wrist produced nothing but a little trickle of water. A frigid trickle of water! I could have cried if I hadn’t been shaking so violently from the cold. Instead, I became determined that I was going to get clean no matter how long it took me. Unfortunately, though, there was one other problem: There was an apple-sized hole in the wall that allowed me to see right into the men’s side of the bathhouse. What was worse was that I could be seen in my au naturel state from their side. The next 15 minutes consisted of me putting too much shampoo in my hair and desperately trying to rinse it out with the pathetic little water stream while I violently shook from the cold, danced away from the hole in the wall, and sobbed with hot, angry tears.
My prayer to God was something like this: “Father, please change this cold water into hot water and produce lots of it to cover me.” And when the water didn’t immediately obey my plea, my demands to God became more piteous and more righteous! “God, I have spent d-d-days serving you and your children. I cooked for these children, and counseled them, and made sure they were high and dry. And through all of this I had a good attitude.” My piety was now at an all-time high. I remember all this because I still often hear myself in a sad little voice trying to convince God of my righteousness and piety so that He will do my bidding. Surely He owed me something for all the self-sacrifice and martyrdom I had endured? …….Or did I owe Him something?
My entitled little conversation with God continued as I could stand no more of the icy water and started toweling off. I must have paused momentarily in my whining because all of a sudden I heard this still, small voice quietly say to me, “Yeah, but will you still worship me?” This unexpected question was so shocking to me that I stopped dead in my tracks and inhaled abruptly, my body frozen in a totally shocked and perplexed pose. I quietly put on my clothes, exited the bathhouse, and rode back to our campsite in a pensive mood. I said nothing to my husband for days about my encounter until the Spirit brought clarity to the event.
You see, it is easy to praise God when He is healing us and raining down His kindnesses and riches upon us. He delights in providing for our needs and spoiling us with extra gifts, tailor made to speak to our diversity and testifying to how much He loves us. But what about when God doesn’t give us what we ask for? What about when we’re asking Him for healing and it doesn’t come? Or we need relief from unemployment or a mortgage to be paid? Will we still praise Him? The real question we have is: Can I Trust God? If He doesn’t respond to the groanings of my soul with the expected answers, is He still a Being that I can trust my life and salvation to?
Years of walking with God has resoundingly assured me that He is always faithful and can be trusted. If there is ever a question about unfaithfulness, it is usually a candid testament to my own infidelity towards God. Never, is God unfaithful. Which leads me back to the cold shower whisper I encountered: Will I worship Him when things are going well ….AND when I am wading through the mud? I still struggle with this question and my human flesh probably always will. But quite often throughout the years, as I am whining and railing against life, I’ve heard the gentle prodding of the Spirit asking me, “Yeah, but will you still praise me?” I inhale abruptly, my body frozen in a totally shocked and perplexed pose. And then I praise Him.
Hosea 6:3 (NIV)
Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”