So, in various conversations with various friends, I’ve found myself talking a lot about praising God this week. And I’ve been praying a lot for friends and friends of friends, that they would be lifted by Holy Spirit to a place where they can truly and genuinely praise God.
Not just praising God in the overflow of near-perfect-personal-circumstance.
But pressing through to praise Him in the deep-and-bitter-darkness and through the rough-valley and when we completely don’t understand.
Knowing, truly knowing, that there is power in our praise. In our declaration of the unfailing character of a perfect-always-good-Father, even when we can’t see clearly, or we can only see dimly, or we feel that Jesus is asking us to take a step into what is unknown, or frightening, or painful, or, or, or…
And in order to engage in some of these conversations, I’ve actually been going back through some journals. Revisiting some of the earnest cries of my heart out to God when I was in a place of desperately clinging onto everything I knew but didn’t feel. Remembering the days where I literally had to sing myself into the truth that He really satisfied. Above circling depression, and shattered dreams and the overwhelming shadow of hopeless. Above the physical reality. He really satisfied.
And so today, I’m not going to recreate anything new. I’m just going to share a journal extract from late 2009, when for me there was only the wrestling reality between light and darkness and hope and despair.
Because I remember one particularly bad day. I phoned a friend in tears, wanting quite frankly, to have the pity party to end all pity parties. I remember sobbing down the phone, ‘If God loved me, really loved me, then why would He let this happen, over and over again?’ And my friend didn’t humour me in my despair, not for one second. They instead said to me words that made me so incredibly mad at the time (Seriously, I wanted indulgant sympathy…). ‘Pete, just think, this life is your one chance to praise in the darkness. To praise above your circumstance. You will have the whole of the eternities to come to praise Jesus from your wholeness, and from your abundant joy, but this is your one chance to choose praise in the valley. I know you don’t understand and either do I, but you can’t let anything take His praise out of your mouth’.
It wasn’t what I wanted to hear. But it was what I needed to hear.
Because it was true.
I really think we learn how to praise in the valley. Really praise. Because it’s a sacrifice. Sometimes it’s a sacrifice that feels like it’s going to literally cost us everything. But our Father is good. And He is still on His throne. And He is still worthy of our worship. And He still has this. Even when everything is a hot mess, even when everything seems totally dark, even when we don’t have the answers to our questions.
So, yeah… Here’s one of many journal entries on this topic. The choice to praise 🙂
May I always give glory to my Father through a life of humility!! May I never rely on the victories of the past for my strength and assurance, but always press into the deeper things of God, whose mercies are new EVERY morning!! The clay is not greater than the potter. May I never think that this is in anyway about me and for my own glory. I am simply a vessel to be used by my Father, and the only way God can get glory out of my life, is when it is totally and fully submitted and sacrificed to Him. I just pray that God is breaking me so that this becomes the truthful reality in my life. That my all and everything just cries out in praise of Him, that I am nothing and HE is everything.
Wow! I must often be stripped of all but God, before I can totally learn to rely on Him. I MUST die to myself, carry my cross and live only for My Daddy. True reliance on my Father is not seen when the walk is easy, but when it is hard. God is so faithful to us, even when we are not. But so often He uses the trial to bring the restoration. The fruit of our trial must be humility and purity. When our afflictions strip us of our wordly security and comforts, we see God become our TRUE COMFORT! Through Him, comfort OVERFLOWS. There can be no pretence in the fire. We see the truth of our hearts. I just long that this year I can pass through the fire, and storm and water, and do it all in the grip of HIS grace, holding the hand of my Daddy, and staying faithful in all things. That God would be my true comfort, my ultimate strength, and that I would see Him as Saviour and Restorer in ALL things!
I WILL praise His Name. I will. Even though it hurts to sing it out.
God’s anger may last a moment, but His favour lasts a lifetime!! We have a future hope, a hope so secure because it rests on the reality of the cross. I am reminded this morning of that worship song by Jason Upton:
In the moment where it looks like you’ve lost all your power
In the moment where it looks like you’re all alone
Will you wait for me?
Just wait for me
I will never leave you
I will come to you in the midst of your hurting
I will breathe new life into you.
And that’s God’s promise to His people. THE BURDEN WILL BE LIFTED!! Sin is gone, forgiven and removed and there is NOW NO CONDEMNATION. SUCH forgiveness, such peace. Thank You Jesus. Thank You, thank You, thank You Jesus. All glory be to You forever.
My Deliverer WILL come. I will wait. He is coming. And I will still praise Him.
You know, honestly, I didn’t see the answer to some of those 2009 prayers for 3 years. Maybe 4. Things got worse. I still didn’t understand. The darkness seemed to get darker. But now… I see something more of the purpose. And I can testify.
He is Healer.
And my Deliverer did come.
And there is power in the praise.
That, I can promise you.
I painted a huge, as big-as-I-am canvas this year which is my all time favourite expression of this picture God used to give me when I would sit at my piano in those times of brokenness. I think it will always be my favourite of all the things I have ever painted. Not because my skill is particularly breathtaking, but because the intimacy with God really was. (It’s actually one of the only pieces of my art that I am shipping to Japan).
Sometimes we don’t understand. But His gentleness is always stunning. And He invites us to enter in. To that place of safety. And for me, that will always be sitting by the rushing river, under the mighty tree, talking and laughing with Jesus.
Let’s choose to praise Him today.