My good friend sings in our church choir. She always sings with all the strength of her beautiful voice, lifting the name of our Savior high in song. But tonight, she seemed to be singing with an extra depth, an extra vigor, and an extra true joy shining on her face. I could hardly watch her without some of my own tears springing forth. I am one of only a few who know the hard she is facing and the great depth of the pain from where she is coming to praise God the way she does. Difficulties in her marriage and with her child are almost insurmountable, and she is struggling with grief, betrayal, anger, anxiety, hurt and confusion.
It is easy to give God praise when life is beautiful, but how can we give Him praise when life is hard? He is pleased when we praise Him from a place of blessing, but I believe He receives even greater glory when we praise Him from a place of pain.
To bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair. Isaiah 61:3
Isaiah’s prophecy about the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord was proclaimed hundreds of years later by Jesus as He began His earthly ministry. He told the people “Today the scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:22) He proclaimed Himself as the one who brings us a new garment in the midst of our ashes, mourning and despair. Christ covers our pain with praise.
The contrast of the light of praise to the darkness of our pain makes it shine even brighter. Light a candle outside in the afternoon sun and it can’t hardly be seen. But light it in the darkness of midnight, and its light shines forth enough light to comfort your fear and guide your feet.
Praising God in our pain is “heart” work. It is making a conscious choice to lift our hearts and minds above the pain to see God still reigning on His throne. And it is choosing to praise Him there.
Why are you downcast, I my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me, therefore I will remember you. Psalm 42:5-6
The Psalmist here speaks of a conscious decision to place his hope in God, reaching out from his downcast and disturbed soul to look for his Savior and God. He “remembers” God as he moves his mind from his pain to praise.
In times of great pain, our emotions can be all over the place. We have to allow our minds to lead out over our hearts seeking truth and perspective that move us towards Christ. We want to seek Him first and follow hard after Him even in our pain, and not be swept into even greater pain by letting our hurting hearts guide our decisions. “The heart is deceitful above all things” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Praising God in our pain points others to Christ. God uses our pain and the hope we hold on to through it to draw others to Himself by faith. As they see us hurting, yet hanging on to Christ, they see genuine faith lived out. They see a hope that they want to have. Our pain has a purpose in our lives, yes, but also in the lives of those who are touched as we live through it.
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15
Praising God in our pain calls Him in close. Psalm 22:3 says, “You are holy, and you inhabit the praise of Israel” (KJV). When we praise God, He inhabits, He lives in our praise. Psalm 75:1 says, “We give thanks to you, O God, for your Name is near.” He is near! He is here! He is pleased to dwell with those who are dwelling in His praise.
Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed. Save me, and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise. Jeremiah 17:14
It’s hard to describe in words, but we have a funny tradition at our house. If someone falls or trips or in some crazy way hurts themselves, they follow it by getting back on their feet, raising their hands and proclaiming a simple, “I’m okay!” Praising God in our pain is somewhat like this. Though we may be hurting, from our own shortcomings or someone else’s, we raise our hands and let God and everyone else know, “I’m okay!”
We can be more than okay as we choose to lift hearts to our God and Savior still seated on His heavenly throne. As we praise Him there, we shine His light to others and call Him in close to see us through. May God give us greater faith to praise Him from our places of pain.