When ‘Awesome’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘Awesome’

Wait a minute, Lord!

I never prayed for this!

I asked for something awesome and good! Something that would bring You honor and glory if You made it happen.

I believed my motives were pure.

Really, Lord.

But this?


I never requested this terrible thing!

Have you ever – in your life – talked to the Lord this way – especially after praying long and hard for something and then receiving an answer that you would never have considered in a million years?

What do you do with that?

How do you respond?

In David’s case, he responds this way:

You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds,
God our Savior,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas….

New International Version, Psalm 65: 5

Wait a minute!

David isn’t bemoaning anything here…in fact, these words indicate praise and acknowledgment of his Lord as David’s hope and confidence.

It’s understandable to take David’s words this way, but there is something we are missing in the translation.

Awesome doesn’t necessarily mean awesome. In today’s lingo, awesome means that something is incredibly impressive, awe-inspiring, and radically-good.

However, as I shared, awesome in this case doesn’t exactly mean awesome.

Here is another translation of Psalm 65:5

By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea:

Authorized King James Version, Psalm 65:5


God answers us with terrible things?

Maybe we should just stick with the NIV translation that appears far more uplifting and hopeful…and awesome.

What does terrible mean exactly?

Terrible from the NKJV and awesome from the NIV are based upon the Hebrew transliterated word, yare. Yare is defined as something terrible, meant to invoke fear, meant to inspire and elicit a sense of awe and reverence. Yare doesn’t exactly invoke a contemporary understanding of awesome – it’s something more than that.

What David is driving at with this psalm is that we really have no idea what our God will do as He answers our prayers.

Yet, David has no doubt. His God will answer.

And yes, sometimes, the answer will come in a terrible way. David understood this truth as he witnessed his Lord strike down his enemies in battle. War was and to this day remains a truly terrible thing.

Yet, there is even more to glean from these awesome and terrible replies from the Lord than merely a victorious battle.

The stunning truth is that our God does hear our prayers. He responds to every prayer, every heart’s cry, every request, and every deep moan – in His way and in His time. It is through His magnificent power, ablaze in his Glory, and by His merciful grace, He answers us from a position of great, incomprehensible, awe-inspiring holiness.

We don’t often pray with holiness in mind, though.

We pray for good health.

We pray for work.

We pray for marriage.

We pray for children.

We pray for opportunities.

We pray for provision.

We pray for leaders of nations.

We pray for help.

We pray for hope, for peace, for joy, for contentment and…so many desires of the heart.

We pray and we pray and we pray.

But do we pray for a sanctifying answer for this, that, or the other thing?

Do we even consider that as we pray that God’s response will bring us to a place of holiness, set apart from the sinful nature of this world?

Our God does.

His sanctifying work in our lives means that He answers our prayers with exactly what is needed to instill holiness in us and to seek Him in holiness.

And as a result, His answers may be terrible – because the sin in this world is – terrible.

No one wants to hear that, of course.

I confess that I have never prayed for anything terrible – does anyone ever pray to be struck with cancer; to endure a painful marriage which ultimately ends in divorce; to see their child suffer at the hand of bullies; to be fired from a job; to witness their parent undergo Alzheimer’s Disease or ….. anything so dreaded?

No one prays for terrible, heart-stretching challenges that occur in life.

Yet, they happen.

And even as they do, we need to remember that our God is with us in them.

Every. Single.Terrible.Thing.

We don’t like to think that way, of course. We don’t want to think that God is in something terrible too – we want Him to take us out of the hurtful mess. Now.

Just today I had a heart-to-heart with one of my kids and I shared, “I’m so sorry that happened to you. It shouldn’t have happened. But, even in that terrible thing, where do you think your God was at the time?”

My child never asked for this struggle. Yet, it happened.

The truth of the matter is that the trials of life only increase as we get older, they don’t necessarily decrease. And we may say, “I never prayed for any of this, Lord. Never. I never wanted any of these challenges.”

It is at this low point of faith struggle that David reminds us…

God is our Savior,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas….

It is here that David declares:

God is our Hope. No matter where we may be found on earth – from the far reaches of the earth to the other – God offers Himself to us as our confidence, our security and our refuge – in every good thing and in every terrible thing. He will see us through each challenge uniting His salvation and His righteousness to see His sanctifying work completed in our hearts.

Imagine that.

No matter what is happening in your life right now – whatever you are lifting up to the Lord in prayer – His answers are coming! Each reply is fitted to you in such a way that you will one day see how His love and grace were being poured into your life – even during the terrible times – to bring you into a holy space.

You see that is what hope in God is all about.

The hope that David describes comes from the Hebrew transliterated word, mibtach. Mibtach is a noun which means trust, confidence, refuge, security, and hope. This is a hope that says, “My life may be terrible and things may appear out of control, but I know that my Savior is with me. I know He is working all of this out in ways I do not yet see. I place my trust and confidence in Him. He is my hope. I will trust Him for my todays and for my tomorrows and for all eternity.”

When we reach this place of hope, this is  an awe-inspiring faith. It’s truly a holy space where we rest in the Presence of our Lord and Savior. We are acknowledging our trust in our God for whatever answers to our prayers that come, understanding the Lord’s replies bring us through a sanctifying, holy and awesome work.

Friends, if you are currently in a terrible, heart-sore place, hold fast to the hope that is inspired through our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord is working out something sanctifying and holy within you. It’s a painful work – I’m sure. I pray that our God will bring you comfort and courage as you go forward during this necessary time. Fix your eyes and set your soul on eternity. For no difficult thing ever lasts forever on earth – the Lord’s answer and help will come. As you commit it all to Him, it shall be redeemed. Hold fast. He is doing a holy work in you!

And yes, that is what awesome is all about!

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