“Taste.” I extended a fork toward my husband.
He shook his head. “No thanks.”
I couldn’t blame him. The last time I experimented with a new recipe, the result was disastrous.
Some people enjoy trying new foods. Each taste is an experience to savor, even if the dish isn’t completely successful. Others are more reluctant to “taste and see.”
But when it comes to our relationship with God, that’s exactly what David wrote in Psalm 34. He exhorted us to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (v. 8).
Unfortunately, while some past experiences have been sweet, others, much like my husband’s encounter with my culinary experiment, may leave us hesitant to taste again. The difference is often related to our expectations.
For example, in Psalm 34 David praised God for being our Deliverer. Still, it’s difficult to talk about God as deliverer when rescue doesn’t occur as we hope it will.
For a teen trapped in sex trafficking, deliverance is freedom from her abusers. A cancer patient might view deliverance as healing from a terminal disease. For the ancient Israelites, deliverance meant watching the Egyptian army drown in the Red Sea.
But what happens when deliverance doesn’t come as we expect? After all, although the Israelites experienced freedom from slavery, they waited 400 years for their rescue.
Sometimes God’s deliverance feels as if we’ve moved from the frying pan into the fire. When Moses first approached Pharaoh, the Israelites’ burden was made heavier because of Moses’ appeal for their freedom.
Still, regardless of our immediate experience, we have a choice. We can allow our circumstances to obscure our view of God, concluding God failed in his role as our deliverer. Or we can be intentional about continuing to “taste and see” that the Lord is who he says he is.
The acronym TASTE reminds us how to do this.
Suffering has a way of causing us to forget God’s faithfulness. The more we focus on our difficulties, the bigger they seem, and the smaller God appears in comparison.
Oh, that we would trust our heavenly Father the way Jesus did! At the moment Christ faced his biggest trial, he knew his heavenly Father was bigger. In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
Jesus knew the events of his imminent arrest and execution were under God’s sovereign control. If the Father did not intervene, it was because something better would be accomplished.
When my husband was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it appeared to be a death sentence, both physically and spiritually, since he did not have a personal relationship with the Savior. But I had a choice, and I chose to trust the One to whom I belonged.
It’s easier to praise God when life is pleasant. The test is whether we will praise him as darkness encroaches.
When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, he began with praise: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). God’s name is to be hallowed, or set apart, because of who he is.
Praise is a response to God’s nature. Knowing he is always worthy of praise enables us to adore him regardless of our situation. He is holy, righteous, and just. He is merciful, compassionate, and his nature is love. Nothing in this broken world will ever cause God to be less than he is.
After my husband’s diagnosis, I followed my initial response of trust with praise. Praise that God is sovereign, and that even a cancer diagnosis could not derail his plans for me and my family.
When trouble strikes, our natural response is to cry out for deliverance. We beg God to remove the problem from us or remove us from the problem.
When Jesus Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, he sought his Father’s deliverance with such anguish that his sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). Three times he asked for the cup to be removed. Three times the answer was “no.”
While this was not the answer Jesus sought in his humanity, as the Son of God he knew his sacrifice would fulfill the Father’s will and accomplish his plan of salvation.
When the apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, he explained that the reasonable response to God’s gift of salvation is one of sacrifice for us too. He wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).
Too often, we seek God’s hand instead of his heart. But as living sacrifices, we unreservedly offer ourselves, body, soul, and spirit, to be used by God as he chooses.
As I prayed for my husband’s deliverance from his devastating illness, I knew I needed to sacrifice my own agenda and trust God’s plans. Even as I sought him, deliverance came, but not in the way I expected.
Physical healing did not occur. God gave us something better. For it was through this cancer that my husband came to know his Savior in a personal way.
As children, we’re taught to say “thank you” for what we receive. Of course, it’s easier to give thanks when we like what we’re given. And it takes faith to give thanks in advance of the gift.
I’ve always appreciated how Jesus thanked God for hearing him prior to commanding Lazarus to exit the tomb (John 11:41). Even before the miracle, Jesus gave thanks.
It also requires faith to give thanks when the gift we desire does not occur.
But if we’re trusting, praising, and seeking God, gratitude will flow, regardless of whether we receive the deliverance we seek. Instead, we thank God for what he, in his goodness and sovereignty, chooses to give.
As I saw the reality of my husband’s spiritual healing, we were both able to give thanks for God’s mercy, regardless of the cancer that still ravaged his body. Did we continue to pray for physical healing? Of course. But we recognized a greater healing had occurred.
E—Expect Him to Work
Do you live with expectations or expectancy?
To live expectantly is to recognize God is always working, without setting specific expectations on what that will look like. It communicates that we’re satisfied with whatever the Lord allows or gives, without comparing it to our own agenda.
Jesus could have summoned legions of angels when he was betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane. But he chose, instead, to demonstrate his expectancy that God was still at work (Matthew 26:53, 54).
Those who live expectantly have the privilege of living out a truth understood by missionary Jim Elliot, who said, “God always gives his best to those who leave the choice with him.”
If we live expectantly, life becomes a continuous experience of joyful anticipation as each new day unwraps God’s plan for us.
As I watch my husband battle cancer, the cancer is no longer our overriding focus. His goal now is to use each day he has as an opportunity to tell someone about Jesus. And he does so with an expectancy that God will use these conversations for his glory.
Taste and see that the Lord is good. He rescues and delivers, yet not always in the way we expect. But when we trust him, adore him, seek his heart, thank him, and live expectantly, we will experience his deliverance in ways we could not have imagined.
Ava Pennington is an author and Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) Teacher living in Stuart, Florida.