Is it really a bad hand?
Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy. (Psalm 63:3-6)
When you aren't 'dealt' the hand you expected, how do you respond? To be honest with you, I don't always immediately praise God for the 'lousy hand'. Sometimes I gripe about it, chafe against it, and get a little too 'me' focused right there in the midst of the 'hardship' I am enduring. "Me" comes first and "me" is not feeling like it is getting the 'best shake' in the moment, so "me" begins to resist and complain. Been there? Got the shirt and wore it out? Good! Sometimes our life is even turned upside down by the 'hand' we receive - what was up is now down, and the ground underneath us is quite shaky. When we 'receive' that 'hand', we might just forget who walks with us in the midst of the upheaval that seems to be closing in on us. God may have allowed the 'hand' to show us just how much he loves us - that he isn't about to abandon us to our own devices in the midst of uncertainty that surrounds us. That 'infertile' ground we stand upon is just about to become some of the most 'fertile' ground we experience, but first, there must be some work!
David experienced more than one 'lousy hand' in life, but he walked gracefully through them. Did he ever complain or gripe about the things he faced? Yes, he did! Although that gives us a little encouragement that we are not much different, there is one thing we see about David's life that shows us how he made it through when the 'cards' just didn't seem to be 'good'. Study his life long enough and you will realize he had a deep and lasting relationship with his Lord. He didn't just go to church on Sunday and live like he wanted the rest of the week. He didn't just turn to God when the times got tough - he lived with God in the leanest of times as much as he did in the times of great plenty. He did press in during the lean times, so maybe that is a good lesson for us to see. Lean times are inevitable - hardship cannot be avoided forever. Being a Christian might mean we have 'hardship insurance' - we have a place to turn when the 'hand' we are dealt doesn't provide the most 'optimum' of circumstances. We don't have this 'insurance' just because we say "yes" to Jesus - we have it because we allow him to cultivate his presence and peace within.
Where does this cultivation occur? Usually in the driest and most barren of places. It is in those places that we learn to value our relationship with Jesus - we find out how much his love and grace mean to us. How? The things we counted on in this world seem to bring little satisfaction or peace into our lives - but we find his presence restores our soul, invigorates our spirit, and soothes our confused mind. We want all the good stuff that comes from serving Jesus, like the best 'hand' in cards. When we get the 'lousy hand' in life, do we complain or embrace it, give it into his hands, and let him show us how to 'play it'? That is what David did when he lifted his voice time after time again in praise and worship. In the midst of the 'band hands' of life, he lifted his spirit and voice in praise. Why? It showed how much he valued God taking the 'hand' and 'playing it' as only he could! Praise and worship may not come naturally when we 'get the band hand', but if we have cultivated that love relationship with Jesus in the 'good hand' times, we are likely to carry that into the 'bad hand' times, as well. Just sayin!