3 Reasons to Praise through the Pain
"When we bless God for mercies, we usually prolong them. When we bless God for miseries, we usually end them. Praise is the honey of life which a devout heart extracts from every bloom of providence and grace."
– Charles Spurgeon
No matter who you are, where you live, or what socioeconomic background you come from, the reality of this life is that seasons of hardship are guaranteed. Jesus walked his disciples and followers through this idea in John 16 when he said, “In this world, you will have trouble …” and again in Luke 9 when he says to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Paul, Peter and a myriad of other apostles and disciples faced greater opposition and suffering than most of us begin to fathom. The writers of scripture make it abundantly clear that the walk of faith is one of rather consistent journeys into the wilderness, in which we will face a multitude of tests, challenges, and hardship. But how do we walk these seasons out well? How do we journey through them with wisdom? When all is against us in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, how do we keep walking?
It is counter-intuitive, counter-cultural and often the last thing we want to consider when the world feels as though it is caving in all around us. It is also the solution to our sorrow and the plenty for our lack.
Here are 3 reasons to praise through the pain:
Praise repositions our perspective
Throughout his life, David was known for a lot of things - good, great bad, ugly and horrific - but being emotionally stable may not have been one of them. If you read through the book of Psalms, one day you’ll find David dancing through the streets in a bathrobe praising God, only to then find him the next day curled up the fetal position penning of how he has nothing and no one. Psalm 56 is no different. In this Psalm, we find David running from King Saul who is seeking to murder David. As he runs into his own personal wilderness, David pens about his experience and emotions, and then makes an almost schizophrenic soul-shift that would leave most with emotional whiplash, but just so happens to give us insight into how praise works.
"Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly. I’m proud to praise God, proud to praise GOD. Fearless now, I trust in God; what can mere mortals do to me? God, you did everything you promised, and I’m thanking you with all my heart. You pulled me from the brink of death, my feet from the cliff-edge of doom. Now I stroll at leisure with God in the sunlit fields of life.” – Psalm 56
David begins his account of the situation by being brutally honest and emotionally unrestrained. He’s miserable and destitute. He feels lost and forsaken, and he’s not shy in speaking about it. But then, from out of almost nowhere, he says, “I'm fearless now.”
What? ... How?
David might be well-known for being an emotional upheaval on his best day, but he’s also known, almost more so, for commanding his soul and emotions on his worst day. In this psalm, David is honest and unrestrained at first, but then he pauses, takes a deep breath, gathers himself and begins penning not about what he sees, but about what he believes he is going to see. David shifts his soul to praise God, and as he does, his perspective is repositioned. He moves from outlining his troubles to underlining God’s faithfulness. And that is where the power of praise begins.
"As we choose to praise God in this midst of our problems and pain, our souls are realigned to the realities of God’s enormity & authority, even if our situations lack any change, now or moving forward."
Praise has little to do with the speed, style or genre of a song - as we so often associate it as a musical term - and everything to do with faith-filled proclamations about the character and faithfulness of God. Praise is proclaiming God’s victory and triumph through the lifting of our voices and raising of our hands. Praise is choosing to command our souls to recall miracles past in the midst of present pain. It is the power of faith at work, even when our situations scream something different. David penned his praise and then went on to spend another 9 years living in the desert, running from cave to cave to escape murder. His praise certainly wasn’t the indication of or the vindication for his situation; it was something more powerful - it was David's exclamation of God’s character to his situation.
As we choose to praise God in this midst of our problems and pain, our souls are realigned to the realities of God’s enormity and authority, even if our situations lack any change, now or moving forward. Praise is the power of faith and hope at work, and our victory-shout as we journey around the walls of our personal Jericho, believing on day one to see the walls fall, though it may be another 6 until they do.
Praise turns the battle into blessing
Opposition, suffering, and hardship can often turn our spiritual sight blind and our emotional hope sterile. When we're walking through pain, blessing often sounds like a curse that others use in jest. It’s hard to believe that there is life beyond what we’re living or that hope is there, beyond what we see. Pain stifles our sight, clouding our ability to see clearly and beyond the present hardship. But scripture cuts through the confusion like the lighthouses of old seared through fog facing a shore-bound ship. Through it we see how praise not only realigns our perspective but quite literally transforms our situation.
"By way of praise, God turned the valley of battle into the valley of blessing."
In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat is King of Israel and finds he and his people faced with not one, not two, but three different enemy armies amassing against him. In less than twenty-four hours, three nations aligned together and were now marching towards the people of Israel. After seeking the Lord for wisdom, Jehoshaphat made a decision that was anything but wise in the sight of great soldiers - he sent out a choir dressed in their robes; and as the enemy armies arrived at a valley a mere 10 miles away from Israel, Jehoshaphat’s choir marched towards them singing praises to God. And scripture accounts:
"And when [the Israelites] began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another … On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, for there they blessed the Lord. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Beracah to this day.”
By way of the people’s praise, God sent his angel-armies to ambush and confuse the enemy armies. The choir and Jehoshaphat arrived to find not one single soldier alive. And there in that place in which Israel’s praise saw God’s greatest work, Jehoshaphat renamed the battleground "Valley of Beracah,” which is translated to the Valley of Blessing. By way of praise, God turned the valley of battle into the valley of blessing. In the same way, our praise will transform our place of pain into our position of proclamation for what God has done. Praise prepares the ground upon which we stand to be overrun by the armies of angels that God sends on our behalf, and stirs confusion in the mind of our enemy. While suffering will often lessen our ability to see hope, praise commands the fog to lift.
Praise transforms our tears into tools for those around us
In Psalm 84, David uses a specific term and location that speaks to a profound spiritual truth related to the power of praise. He wrote that the people of Israel walked through the Valley of Baca - a normal yet diffuclt and trecherous journey for the people of Israel on their way to Jerusalem - saying that they filled it with pools and springs of water as they journeyed through. The note to make is that Baca in the original language is translated weeping or tears. And herein lies the truth - as the people of God made their way through the Valley of Weeping, praising and worshiping God in the midst of the wilderness, their tears became pools of living water for those that followed.
"Praise turns our eyes heavenward, resolving us to underline His power instead of outlining our problem."
When we resolve to praise God despite our loss, celebrate Him in the presence of our pain, and thank Him when all feels lost, we are spiritually transforming our valley of tears into a place of paradise for the people around us, or soon following us. Our praise, by God’s grace, becomes someone else's hope, our song of victory - their strength, and our pain - their pools of living water. Praise is what allows us to walk through the wilderness of weeping with our heads held high, not only with the promise of God’s faithfulness for us, but his promise to use our situation for someone else. Our praise will become a prophetic proclamation of hope for those soon entering the wilderness.
"Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength ... No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. ” – Psalm 84
Praise through the pain
Praise is our power, no matter what our position. It is our Jesus-centered battle-cry and faith-filled proclamation. It commands our souls to remember the kindness of God and realigns our perspective to recall the promises of God. Praise turns our eyes heavenward, resolving us to underline His power instead of outlining our problem. It prepares us to face the wilderness, empowers us to walk when we grow faint and enables the mighty hand of our Almighty God to move on our behalf. Praise is the password into the presence of God and the keyword in our search for wisdom in the wilderness. When I think of praise, I often think of a moment in C.S. Lewis’ A Horse and His Boy when Aslan, the lion, says to the faith-filled character Thestra,
"Dearest [child], I knew you would not be long in coming to me. Joy shall be yours.”
When we position ourselves in the presence of God by way of praise, even the wilderness becomes a fountain of joy springing forth as we proclaim the goodness of God and watch our souls align accordingly, our circumstances sure to follow. So the questions now stands:
What is your pain? And where is your praise?
Praise – A Curated Playlist
Praise may not be musical in it's entirety, but having a carefully curated playlist of songs that echo the sound of praise both lyrically and musically can be a crucial aid when walking through challenging seasons. This playlist is a short culmination of the songs that carry that tone and are centered on repositioning our perspective.