By Melissa McLaughlin
The End of Our Strength
We’ve all been there. That moment when the relationship falls apart and the memories are strewn on the floor in millions of shattered glass shards. When the job opportunity disintegrates before our eyes sending dark billowing clouds across our horizon. When the doctor gives the diagnosis you convinced yourself you would never hear, then the door closes. When the funeral is over and your loved one is gone, the sound of their voice never to be heard on the other end of the phone again. When each day seems a little darker than the one before. When everything you touch seems to grow cold.
These days are heavy. Your heart carries a double load of unexpected weariness. Like bending over to pick up your briefcase on the way to work only to discover that it is filled with four hundred-pound weights instead of four paper files.
In your mind, a living tree, solid and true has fallen. As you struggle to remove the tree, you reach out wrapping your arms around the rough bark, only to realize that it is wider, longer and more massive than anything you can lift even with your farthest stretch and tightest grip. It is simply beyond you.
You are spent. You have come to the end of your own strength. Time feels thin.
The Gift of Struggle
When this day comes, consider yourself in a blessed position.
What? Who would ever think such a thing? Who would welcome these imposing blows to the heart, soul and mind?
This struggle, though insurmountable in the moment and spreading black tentacles as far as the human eye can see…this struggle is still just momentary when compared to the timeline of all eternity. You have been granted a golden and passing moment when you are able to bring God a most sacred gift, a sacrifice of brokenhearted praise.
When our lives are running smooth as silk, of course we should praise the Lord. But when we are in our darkest moments, we should praise the Lord, even more.
2 Corinthians 4:17 – For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
Hebrews 13:15 – Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.
First of all, God is worthy of our praise. No matter what. He is still the Creator of the universe, the Sovereign LORD, the One who formed the mountains, filled the seas, created our inmost being, breathed His breath of life into us and set our heart beating. God is powerful. God is able. Nothing is too difficult for Him. No matter what difficulties He allows to come our way, He is God and we are not. He is holy and we are not. He is eternal and we are dust of the earth. Isaiah 45:5 – I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.
When we praise the LORD, though the tempests rage, we are declaring God’s worth and value over all and above all.
Merriam-Webster.com defines the noun form of “praise” as: 1a: an expression of approval : commendation b: worship 2a: value, merit
Thinking more deeply about the word “praise” may help us connect more fully with the act of praising the Lord. As we express our approval of the LORD and declare God’s worth and value, we are assuring even ourselves that we prize God Himself as our great reward. He is worth it, no matter what.
Another purpose for praise is that God is good, even when we can’t see this truth with our natural eyes. God is still good. He has our greater good in mind. How can we be sure of this? This answer is worth repeating to ourselves daily. Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. No matter the stormy waters tossing us about, we can cling to the truth of God’s sacrificial love for us when we look in the face of Jesus hanging on the cross for our sins. Our holy and perfect God sent His own Son to take the punishment for us so that His justice could be upheld and at the same time our sins forgiven. Who else would go to such lengths out of love for us? Jesus saved us from hell and won us for heaven. That already is the greater good.
Praise God in the Storms
Additionally, when we praise the Lord despite our pain and sorrow, we are acknowledging God’s greatness over any deception or attack of Satan, the enemy of our soul. Psalm 22:3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. When we praise the Lord in the midst of our difficulties, we lift our eyes from the weight of our problems to the magnitude of His glory. We are making it clear to ourselves and the LORD that indeed God is bigger, higher and more beautiful than the ugliness of this world. We refuse to relinquish any more of our spirit to the enemy when we praise God through our tears. Through our praises, we refuse to allow Satan to block our view of all God has already done, is doing and will do. May our praises flow strong as the rivers of tears that stream down.
Furthermore, we must remind ourselves that through the jagged edges of our lives God is carving us into the image of Christ. All too often we read Romans 8:28 without continuing on to Romans 8:29. The good that God is working together for those who believe in Him is that we would be conformed to the image of Christ. That is God’s greater good and ours, if we will accept it. God’s glorious heavenly plan is not for us to sit back and relax in wealth, comfort and leisure, but that we would radiate the beauty of Christ. Romans 8:28-29 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Wow, to look like Christ! How beautiful! Yet surely being conformed to the image of Christ will also be painful. Look at the path Jesus walked. Beauty from ashes. Glory from pain. Life from death. As we trace this reality out in the particulars of our own lives, we recognize that God is using the painful experiences in our lives to chip away at our sin-nature, our pride, selfishness, greed, lust, jealousy and desire to be god in and of ourselves. This transformation will not happen with a side-glance from God. The LORD has to take his sharpest chisel and pry our super-glued self-centered fingers off everything in this world, until we view Him as our true Beginning and End, our true Source for all life, both now and forever. Until we reach to grab hold of God alone as the One to which we cling.
A Sacrifice of Praise
Certainly, when we praise the Lord during the good times that blesses the Lord’s heart. However, when we continue to praise the Lord even during the hard times, how much more would that move Him? Psalm 50:14-15 “Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” When we bring praises before the Lord with a broken heart, what a true sacrifice of praise that is and will be! May we be alert, making use of any passing darkness to be a special blessing to the LORD through the brokenhearted praises of our hearts, minds and lips! What other gift can we bring One so great? It is our opportunity to prove the authenticity of our love and faith in Christ. What an extraordinary opportunity for us and a true blessing for Him! Though we have not seen Him, though the darkness may hide Him, yet we believe. This is the brightest gold of our souls.
1 Peter 1:6-9 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
For one day we shall see Him face to face. On that day, at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11 What a day that will be! Reverent fear, overwhelming joy, highest praise, unending gratitude.
Praise of Faith
In contrast to that day, imagine the joy of the Father, when we praise Him right here, right now, without having seen. This is the age of faith, which will come to end on that day. We are praising Him as followers of Christ who are “now, but not yet.” For when we praise him now, we praise by faith. This pleases the Father. Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
When we offer God our brokenhearted praise, it is a praise of faith. Faith in the God who is God. Faith in the goodness of God. Faith in the God who has overcome evil for our redemption. Faith in the God who is carving our features to resemble the face of Christ.
Faith in the God who has done it all –
given us the laws of His righteousness,
sent His Son to fulfill His laws of righteousness that we could not,
defeated death and sin through the resurrection of His Son,
sent His Spirit to help us walk with Him even now,
and prepared a place for us at His table of eternal life.
It’s all faith. God has done it all. We need only accept His beautiful gifts, by faith. Why faith? Because if we believe we can add anything to what God has done, then this story of redemption is not all His and His alone. When we see that all we are and all we have is by faith, then we acknowledge it is not by our strength or power or ingenuity. Faith acknowledges it is God’s greatness from the first to the last.
The Joy of Brokenhearted Praise
As the tears fall, let the praises ring out! To bless the LORD who is worthy of praise in every good and every painful moment. To bless our God who is good. To bless the LORD who has made us and saved us. To refuse any more ground to the enemy of our soul. To bless the LORD who is forging our souls into the image of Christ. To bless the LORD for the opportunity to prove the truth of our faith to Him and to ourselves. To bless the LORD with the praises of faith. To bless the LORD as we acknowledge that everything comes from Him and Him alone.
Let the tears fall.
Let the clouds roll in.
Let the storms rage.
Let the waves crash.
But above all of this…
Let the praises ring!
James 1:2-3 – Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.