Praising God in Hard Times
I’ve recently had a few conversations with people following on from my sermon on Psalm 134. The conversations mostly centre on the question “When I’m in the middle of _________, I find it really hard to praise God, or thank God, or even be grateful to God. How am I supposed to praise God in this situation?”
Part of getting our head around the issue of being able to praise God in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”) is making sure that we understand for what we are to be praising and giving God thanks.
It’s not primarily praising God for the bad things that are happening to us, that we are witnessing, or from which we are picking up the pieces.
We primarily praise God for the fact that despite the bad things or hardships we are in the middle of, God still loves us, that our salvation and eternity is secure with Jesus, and that the Holy Spirit is with us. No matter what situation or circumstance we are in, we can thank God and praise God for what he have through faith in Jesus, and for the fact that whatever terrible thing we experience will be dealt with justly, and made right, when Jesus returns.
Another part of getting our head around the issue is the idea that praise = happiness or cheerfulness. It doesn’t have to be. Praise is about speaking well (and honestly) about God. You can praise God when you are sad or angry, frightened or upset. Part of our confusion around this stems from the way we often term singing at church ‘praise and worship’. When we use the word loosely, or only ever in one type of context, we can actually miss much of the meaning of the word itself.
We praise God by focusing on his great love for us in Jesus: the forgiveness of sins, the assurance of salvation (which is not based on our performance but on God’s love and faithfulness), and Jesus’ promise to never abandon us, but to return to take us to be with him forever. This is something we should do in all circumstances – whether happy or sad, exciting or terrible. No matter what we find ourselves in the middle of, we need to remind ourselves of what we have in Jesus, and praise God – speak well of God to God in prayer – with gratitude, whether through laughter or tears.