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Monday, February 8, 2016

When Praise is Impossible

“Praise the LORD. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!” (Psalm 147:1)

Yes, it is good to praise the Lord. But when life flings us to the ground our heart often catches in our throat and chokes the words before they can cross our lips. How can anyone praise God when a spouse suddenly ends a marriage? Who can give thanks when the physician says the word, ‘cancer’? Is it possible to praise God at the freshly dug grave of a child?

When any of a hundred things turn our stomach to concrete, how can praise ever hope to slip past a shattered heart?

Why do bad things happen to God’s children?  I don’t know. No one knows the mind of God at every convulsion that spreads through anyone’s life. But what we can know, what we must know to answer the ‘why’ question – at least in part, is rooted in sacred Scripture. What the Holy Spirit tells us through that precious text is something we so desperately need to hear again and again.

That unerring message is this: God is never unjust, unkind, or capricious. There is never a time He is unaware of our heartbreak. There is never a time He is unwilling to touch us with hope, with encouragement, with a gentle hand on our shoulder and strong arms to enfold us.

God’s passionate love toward us never wavers a hair’s breadth from any of His children. Here is what Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to write in one of the chapters of that precious text we call the Bible: 

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . .  But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

When tragedy rips the flesh from our heart, when we are paralyzed with grief and angry at God, how is it possible to praise Him?

In those circumstances and in our own strength praise is impossible – without His grace that helps us in our time of desperate need. And it is precisely His grace that has met every need and comforted every man, woman, and young person through the millennia who so desperately needed God’s touch.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask those around you whose lives in Christ you admire. Ask them if God has borne them in His arms through their difficult times. Ask if the words of St. Paul have not repeatedly proven true in their own lives:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:3-5)

The One who cannot lie told us more than once He will never leave us or forsake us (e.g. Deuteronomy 31:8; Matthew 28:20; John 14:18; Hebrews 13:5). And so He is with us when the spouse leaves. He is with us in the doctor’s office. He is with us at the grave site. And in time His grace will help us find words and reason to praise Him, even from the depths of our sorrows.

That is His promise.

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