In 1984, a movie was released called Spinal Tap. It’s a comedy about music, and even if you’ve never seen the movie you may have heard one of the lines. Nigel, one of the main characters, is showing off his guitar collection, and when he gets his guitar amp, he points out how all the knobs on his Marshall go to 11. “Everyone else’s just go to 10,” he says, “but when we need that extra boost, we turn them up to 11.”
“Couldn’t you just make 10 louder than all the other amps that go to 10?” Nigel is asked.
He pauses to consider.
“But these go to 11.”
WHAT KIND OF GOD ARE YOU, ANYWAY?
Psalm 66 describes the work of God in the life of the Israelites after He brought them out of Egypt. The directive of the Psalm is praise – “Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!” (Psalm 66:1) The Psalmist goes on to recount how God led the people through the Red Sea on dry ground, and invites us to continually revisit that story to remember the power of God in rescuing his people and crushing his enemies.
Then verses 8-12 seem to be a little strange:
Bless our God, you peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard. He keeps us alive and does not allow our feet to slip. For you, God, tested us; you refined us as silver is refined. You lured us into a trap; you placed burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us out to abundance. (Psalm 66:8-12 CSB)
At first glance, you might say, “What kind of a God is this? He keeps us alive and doesn’t let us slip, but he doesn’t sound very nice.” Refined us as silver. Lured us into a trap. Placed burdens on our backs. Let men ride over our heads. Went through fire and water. “God you did this to us,” says the Psalmist. We felt trapped. We felt heaviness on our backs. We felt small and insignificant – and when we wanted to die, you kept us alive.
All of us experience trials and difficulties in our lives. We have loved ones who get sick and eventually pass away. We lose jobs, or experience setbacks and frustrations. We have great plans for our lives and then things crash and burn, or they don’t work out like we hoped. We experience rough patches in marriage, parenting, and family dynamics. And if you just look at verses 8-12a, and don’t finish verse 12, it might seem like God is radio silent, or that he’s move on to work with another group of people while you suffer. What kind of God does that?
I was eleven years old when my family and I experienced a house fire. It was not a total loss, by the grace of God, but starting the next morning, we worked hard for six weeks to get back in the house. We had no insurance, and my dad had to quit his job for those six weeks to get the house back in order. It was a trial, literally, by fire. We were being refined. There was a burden on our backs. “God, you did this,” the Psalmist would say. What kind of God are you?
But if you finish verse 12, you see this: “…yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.”
This happened in two ways for our family. At the end of those six weeks, God brought us out to a place of abundance. Even with no insurance money and no paycheck, at the end of the six weeks, my parents had the same amount of money in the bank as they did at the beginning. Sometimes God restores physical blessings, like finances or health or property, etc. He certainly did in the story of Job. But that wasn’t the greatest thing the Lord did for Job or for my family.
Psalm 66:16 – “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul.”
The abundant work of God is not always external – it is more often internal.
We walked away from that house fire with an abundance that could not have been given any other way. We watched how God provides for those who fear him. We watched as God used the Church to meet our needs. We watched as God restored what was lost. We watched as God taught us how quickly the things of earth can disappear in an instant. We watched as God kept our souls among the living, by giving us the most random way out of our burning house to safety. If the only abundance that came out of the fire would have been that we rebuilt the house and got all of our clothes and stuffed animals back, what a waste that would have been! We don’t live in that house, I can’t wear those clothes, and stuffed animals don’t mean much to me anymore. That lesson would have been so short-lived that it almost wasn’t worth the trouble.
But the abundance of the lessons we learned in our souls made is so that, while I wouldn’t wish a house fire on anyone, I am thankful that God gave us that gift.
TURNING IT UP TO 11
The trials and sorrows and sufferings that are attending you today are not signs that God has gone radio silent, or that he has somehow pulled back out of your story and moved on to someone else while you suffer – trials and sorrows are when God turns his voice up to 11 so you can hear him better. When life is easy and things are good, sometimes we have trouble hearing the Lord. So he turns up the amp a little through suffering.
Trials are his cruel mercy, meant to move us to a place of abundance that could not be achieved any other way.
“If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.” Psalm 66:18-19
If all you are praying for is for things to get better, God might answer those prayers physically. Go on and ask for it. But if we can view trials as the magnifying glass to what is really in our hearts, and trust that God is for us, even in suffering, the abundance we will receive from the Lord is much longer lasting than just a quick fix of our circumstances. In fact, carrying us through suffering is God’s way of proving that we belong to him!
So when God turns the amp up to 11 in our lives, let our prayers be, “God deliver me from this situation – but search me, and know me. See if there is any offensive, idolatrous, unbelieving way in me, and show me the right way to go (Psalm 139:23,24).”
Lord, it’s hard for me to believe that trials are your way of showing me I am loved. But your word says it over and over, that trials are training sessions to purify me from sin. Thank you for not simply changing my circumstances to be what I want them to be. Thank you for teaching me deeper lessons in these trials than I could learn anywhere else. Help me to believe that you are good and you are for me. You’ve shown it to me in the person and work of Jesus, who underwent the worst trials, temptations, and crushing burden in human history when he took the sin of the world on his shoulders. Thank you for bringing me out into a place of abundance through his death and resurrection, and promising me my own resurrection on the other side of these trials. Help me not to cherish sin in my heart, but to repent and walk with you, knowing you will not let my feet slip. Amen.