Worship is always a choice. When life is peaceful and painless, the choice to respond to God in thanksgiving and praise may not be hard. But at other times, worship becomes a gutsier decision. Caught up amidst a whirlwind of pain and confusion, the decision to cry out, "Yet I will praise you" is a costly act of devotion. In the life of every worshiper times will come when worship meets suffering. And these moments shape what kind of worshipers we become. Yes, praise be to God for times of abundance and plenty—those carefree days full of peace and laughter. Yet we praise him also in the wilderness times—those dark and stormy seasons of the soul when we're left crying out with the psalmist, "How long, O Lord, how long?" (Psalm 6:3).
When there's nothing to rock the boat, our trust in God is rarely tested. Seasons of stillness and calm are wonderful; yet before long the winds will gather, and we'll find ourselves caught once again in the storms of life. We may have faith to believe in God as Lord of the calm—but do we also have faith to believe in him as Lord of the storm? He is Lord of both the hurricane and the gentle breeze.
Lamentations gives us a great example of a worshiper who experienced pain and yet used the act of remembering as a pathway to praise. The Message words it: I remember it all … the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there's one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope (3:20-21, emphasis added).
What a fantastic way to voice this powerful principle! The discipline of remembering helps us keep a grip on hope and find our way on the paths of praise.
In the next verses of this chapter, the writer reminds his soul that "GOD's loyal love couldn't have run out, his merciful love couldn't have dried up. They're created new every morning" (3:22-23).
Throughout the ages, the people of God have found strength in this approach. For example, the old hymn "The Solid Rock" is deeply rooted in the truth of an unchangeable, unshakable Savior:
"When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace."
In other words, when we can't perceive God amidst our pain, and the clouds of anxiety and fear close in on us, the way forward is to remind ourselves of what we know to be true and dependable—the unchanging grace of God.
It's like looking at the moon. We've all seen a full moon and, therefore, know something of its form. Some nights we only see a half moon; at other times just a small sliver. And on some occasions we see almost nothing—just the faintest outline hidden by a cloudy night sky. Yet even when the moon is obstructed from our view, we're convinced of its existence and true form, because of what we've seen in the past.
The same is true of our worship of Jesus. At times, painful circumstances obstruct our view of him and his goodness. But we've seen the form of the Lord many times before—in life and in Scripture—and know him to be good and kind. Faced with challenging times, a wise worshiper recalls the soul-refreshing wonders of his nature and attributes—and is able to praise. Our Father in heaven has an incredible track record.
To worship God is to tell him that we believe who he says he is. Every day we either acknowledge and proclaim him as the great and merciful God he declares himself to be—or we deny him. If we are to deny something good about God, we automatically imply something bad about him. If we deny God's sovereignty and power, then we imply that, to a degree at least, he is weak and has lost control. If we can't bring ourselves to trust that he is full of mercy, then perhaps we're implying that he has a mean or uncaring streak. There is no middle ground. He is the all-powerful, all-loving God who his Word declares him to be—or he is not.
In his amazing grace, our heavenly Father finds delight even in the most broken and fragile of our offerings—as an earthly father rejoices upon receiving a simple yet heartfelt piece of art from his child. Yet this is only one side of the mystery, for our God is also the majestic and holy King—worthy to be trusted and believed. He desires and requires faith, trust, and obedience—he wants worshipers who stake their lives on his nature and attributes. And so often our Father in heaven will take our broken moments and weave them into a powerful tapestry to the glory of his name.
Adapted from Blessed be Your Name. ©2005 by Matt and Beth Redman. Used by permission of Regal Books.