You Give and Take Away


I have loved “Blessed Be Your Name” (by Beth Redman and Matt Redman) from the moment I heard it at an InterVarsity meeting in college 15 years ago. God has used it numerous times in my life to move my focus from my circumstances onto him. But it’s not an easy song to sing, is it? Do any of us really respond first with “Blessed be the name of the Lord” when we are overwhelmed by difficulty?

Blessed be Your name

In the land that is plentiful

Where Your streams of abundance flow

Blessed be Your name


Blessed be Your name

When I’m found in the desert place

Though I walk through the wilderness

Blessed be Your name

I can start to feel guilty sometimes when I am struggling with my circumstances. Shouldn’t I just be thankful the Lord gave me life and breath and salvation? What reason have I to feel any negative emotion when I have been given such grand and eternal gifts?

But that’s not really how being human works. We know God has saved us and sustained us and that he will continue to provide for us until we meet him in glory, but our emotions do not always line up with the knowledge in our heads.

So is this song telling us to grit our teeth and force ourselves to feel happy about terrible situations?

The first hint of an answer to that question comes in these lines:

Ev’ry blessing You pour out I’ll

Turn back to praise

When the darkness closes in, Lord

Still I will say…

The fact that “every blessing you pour out” is mentioned after the first two verses suggests that these blessings poured out on us by God are described as both abundance and wilderness. The blessings of abundance are obvious: we easily feel God’s favor when our jobs are going well, our children are delightful, our relationships are fulfilling, our bodies are healthy, and we are able to spend time doing things we love. That’s usually when we pull out #blessed, right? We don’t typically include that hashtag after a trip to the ER or a devastating job loss, unless we’re being sarcastic. We don’t need convincing that things that make us happy are blessings from God.

But what about the blessings of the wilderness? What do those look like?

First we need to understand what is figuratively meant by “wilderness.” The Israelites’ 40-year desert wanderings bring to mind material lack, impatience, disappointment, confusion, doubt, and disobedience. None of us can escape all of these things for all of our lives, which means all of us will be “in the wilderness” at some point, and Jesus loves to meet us there.

He can meet us in material lack, and provide miraculously for the things we need to survive, just as he gave the Israelites manna from heaven. He can meet us in impatience and confusion, teaching us that he truly does know all our paths, and can give us peace that our Father will not take us anywhere that will not make us more like his Son, thereby increasing our joy. He can meet us in disappointment, and share our grief that this is not how things are supposed to be. He can even meet us in our doubt and disobedience.

He knows that our minds are finite, and that we struggle to understand what he’s doing in the world. He knows that we are bent toward sin, and often choose a path away from relationship with him. That’s why he sent Jesus: to put our sin on his Son, give us Jesus’ righteousness, and seal this covenant with the Holy Spirit, who makes dead hearts alive and kindles hope from ashes. If every moment in the wilderness is, through the power of the Spirit, another chance to see more of Jesus, learn how deeply he knows us, and experience the love of the Father, then walking in the wilderness is a blessing.

Part of this song is a prayer for our eyes to be refocused. We will not praise the Lord in the midst of the wilderness unless we trust that he is good, and we can’t see his goodness unless the Spirit lifts our gaze from our circumstances to our Savior.

Blessed be Your name

When the sun’s shining down on me

When the world’s all as it should be

Blessed be Your name

As much as we want to think that we could just bless the Lord if our circumstances were easier, we know that when “the world’s all as it should be” we often don’t bless him either. We think things are going well because we worked hard, or because we deserve it after a time of difficulty, or because things just worked out in a positive way. We don’t give God credit for these blessings (even though sometimes they are easier to see as blessings than our sufferings are). This requires just as much refocusing of vision as a refusal to see God’s blessing in the wilderness. It all comes straight from the Father’s hand, because he is good, and he delights to give good gifts to his children.

Blessed be Your name

On the road marked with suffering

Though there’s pain in the offering

Blessed be Your name

This verse makes me think of the faith of Abraham. Can you imagine the suffering he experienced as he and Isaac walked up the road to Mt. Moriah? What offering could be more painful than the sacrifice of his only son? But Abraham’s faith in God’s goodness is shown in his words to Isaac: “God will provide for himself the lamb.” Abraham believed that God could be trusted to keep his promise to make Abraham a great nation.

(This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. I wrote an extended meditation on it a few years ago, so if 2500 words about Genesis 22 sounds right up your alley, you can check it out here. There’s so much more to unpack about God’s blessings in sacrifice!)

You give and take away

You give and take away

My heart will choose to say

Lord blessed be Your name

Job’s response to God when he hears of the death of his children forms the thematic heart of this song. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

Job’s trust in God was not without its questions, but we’re told in verse 22 that “in all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” Bringing questions to God is not wrong. Asking him to help us understand is not wrong. Begging him to change our circumstances is not wrong. Through the blood of Jesus, we have access to God our father for just these kinds of questions! He wants us to throw ourselves upon him and admit our weakness, our pain, our confusion, our anger. He wants us to bring those big emotions to him, because he is the only one who can handle them. The other things we turn to for solace cannot stand up to the infinite longings of our hearts.

We may never know why God chooses to direct our circumstances one way and someone else’s circumstances another. We may never understand why he allows evil of all kinds to exist in the world he created. But if we look at the cross, we have an answer to an even bigger question: is God good? Does he love us? And the answer is a resounding YES.

God was willing to turn his back on his perfect Son, allowing him to experience unimaginable physical, emotional, and especially spiritual pain as he took the sins of his people into his body and absorbed God’s wrath. He did this to bring us into his family, to erase the punishment for sin, to make us into the image of Christ, and to share his glory and love and beauty and perfection with us for eternity. This is love. This is the foundation God points us to when our sufferings lead us to deep questions.

Only because of what Jesus did can we join the angels in heaven and sing,

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Blessed be Your name!

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Blessed be Your glorious name!


This post was originally found at Sarah's blog. Used with permission.