Even when it hurts (Praise Song)

Throughout the struggle there has been one place where I have really found rest. There has been one place where the torment and torrent of thoughts has stopped and been replaced with peace.  There has been one place where I have known everything will be OK.

Perhaps to you this would be obvious.

But it hasn’t been in the expected places like my sofa watching a good film with a glass of wine and box of chocolates, or running round the park music blaring in my ears, or even talking life through with a counsellor.

The place of peace has been the place of praise.

I have known God’s all encompassing power as I have lifted my eyes to Him as an expression of His Almighty power in my life, even when it has appeared to have been absent.  It has been as I have fixed my eyes on Him and sometimes literally forced myself to voice (unable to sing) the songs of praise that my perspective has shifted,  like a mountain coming from nowhere until it fills my vision so that everything else becomes peripheral, and perhaps for a few glorious moments is squeezed out.

Sometimes I wondered if I was lying in acting so, in praising when my heart was struggling, in lifting my hands even as the tears trickled down my cheeks and no words were leaving my mouth.  Often I would creep into Church feeling in no place to sing, feeling betrayed and forgotten by God.  But there is biblical precedent for praise when it doesn’t make sense, Habbakkuk writes;

Though the fig tree doesn’t bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fail and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV).

and isn’t this actually what we sing;

‘Blessed be your name /when I’m found in the desert place/ though I walk through the wilderness/ blessed be your name.’

Catherine Marshall writes of this Biblical response to suffering, pointing out the need to offer a ‘sacrifice of praise’ in Hebrews 13:15:

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. [emphases added]

A ‘sacrifice’ is costly therefore far from it being wrong to struggle to worship, praise should be offered when it hurts.  The praise we offer is ‘through Jesus’ who suffered an agonising death for us on the cross, therefore recognising that God is God, is in control and has ultimate victory despite our current circumstances is the only response in light of the suffering He underwent for us.

Paul and Silas understood this principle.  They had been falsely accused, arrested, beaten and thrown into jail, but despite their hurt, anguish and chains, Paul and Silas sing ‘hymns to God’:

And when they had inflicted many blows upon them [Paul and Silas], they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. (Acts 16:23-26 (NIV))

Paul and Silas have learnt the ‘sacrifice of praise’. No matter the situation and how irrational it looks and feels.  They sing loud enough that the other prisoners can hear too.  This isn’t the shy, quiet singing you would expect of two men in the middle of the night, for whom every breath must hurt as a result of the beating they had received that day, sitting in stocks on a hard, dirty stone; but heartfelt praise.

And when we reach that place God responds and chains are broken.

In Acts it is literal, but it as I have worshipped God has responded. My perspective has shifted, the things that held me in the place of hurt have been put in their place, and chains have been broken.  As a result there has been healing.

Ultimately,  the place of pain has brought me closer to God.

Perhaps it is less ‘Even when it hurts … I will praise You’ as Hillsong put it, and more ‘especially when it hurts… louder then I’ll sing your praise.’

*Notes: While there is something specific and biblical about worshipping collectively in song (1 Chron 16:23-31; Psalm 100; Col 3:16 etc), we can and do worship with our whole lives.  Infact I would go further and say it is imperative for them to mean anything that the songs we sing on a Sunday pour into and out from the rest of our lives.  Like the passage from Hebrews, Romans 12:1 also mentions sacrifice and worship: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” but in this context the worship is lived out in our whole lives rather than simply the songs we sing.

 

Resources:

Even When It Hurts (Praise Song) Hillsong United http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/hillsongunited/evenwhenithurtspraisesong.html

Blessed be your Name Matt Redman
http://www.lyricsbox.com/matt-redman-blessed-be-your-name-lyrics-pfs45jc.html

Something More Catherine Marshall

The Bible

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Monologue from the Bleak (written December 2015)

What do you do when life seems hopeless? When it feels like the future is bleak and you long to throw a cup of hot anything in the face of anyone who claims that God has a plan?

Truth is that life sucks sometimes.  Period.  Sometimes it seems dark; hopeless; bleak.

Struggling under a cloud of depression, working for a charity I no longer align with, boy taken, dreams dashed, lonely in a smog of people.

Enter the silence.  Embrace the questions.  Trust in Him.  He is God.  What other hope do you have? Only He is the Creator and Lord of All.  The Loving King.  The Majestic Maker.  The Saviour of the World.  I have no choice.  Without Him there is no hope.  No life. One day this earth will pass away; marriage is not in heaven; tears will be no more.  We will be overwhelmed in His presence; hidden in HIs love; cloaked in His Majesty.

Bring it on.

 

When life seems to collapse (pt 1)

Rewind the clock fifteen months and I had it all: Training contract with an accountancy firm in the city; living with a friend; leading a church Connect Group; friends buzzing around; clothes size 8; steady relationship with God.

Look at the present: 2 jobs later now au pairing; 2 homes later now living with a family; different Church; friends dispersed, clothes size questionable (bigger); sizeable scars the remnants of two accidents requiring 16 stitches on my knee and 5 in my forehead; and my relationship with God a tussle. And that is before we even mention boy issues. Yet throughout I have only tried to be obedient.

In my deepest darkest moments, I have questioned God’s very existence.  This being whom I have trusted and depended upon and has surely let me down; this was not the life that I got the grades for, or slogged out hours in the library or gym. There have been times when I have felt well within my rights to say God,

“I gave up that job because of the promise that you came to give me life and life in all it’s fullness (John 10:10), and I wanted it.  I was willing to give it all up for you, and now look at me. What are you doing? Are you even here?”

But that statement does not work.

Tucked away in the book of Daniel is the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refuse to worship other Gods and as a result are thrown into a furnace so hot that the soldiers who throw them in are burnt to death.  Before they are thrown in, they claim;

‘If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver usc from Your Majesty’s hand. 18But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18

The three men state that they trust in God, no matter whether He saves them or not.  They love God because of who He is, not what He can do or does for them, and therefore no matter what happens they will not serve or worship another (v.18)   This contrasts sharply with my statement,  which ultimately implies I was not giving up my job for God but what I thought He would bring out of it for me. My interpretation of ‘life in all its fullness” and God’s were not the same.  Mine was warped by culture into a career focussed, comfortable lifestyle mindset. God’s plan was drawing me closer in relationship with Him.

When all else is stripped away we realise one thing remains : God.

 

Diamonds in the Mud

“Everyone can see the mud, it’s up to us to see the diamonds.” (Simon Holley)

Something about this comment struck home.  There was something attractive about the idea. About seeing something that could be missed, and then seeing it flourish like a plant being watered so that others could take pleasure in the flower.

Spotting, polishing, nourishing, encouraging, nurturing, growing.

So that a person becomes more who they are made to be. This wasn’t about seeing something that wasn’t there. But something that was, even if it was just a speck.  Think Billy Elliot’s dance teacher who spotted an ability to jump high, and then trained a ballerina.

Or closer to home, perhaps saying to the receptionist who remembers your name as you enter the office block in the morning and greets you with a smile,  ‘I really appreciate your greeting, it brightens up my day’ so that they continue to greet and make a difference to the days of others.

And in situations. Struggling with a work environment? What’s good about it, let’s see that rather than the bad.

And the funny thing is that as we look for the good often it’s our heart that is changed more than anyone else’s: a little more love, a little more hope, a little more forgiveness.

So today let’s be thankful for the good things and encourage and nurture them.

And who knows who they and you will become.

—-

The Bible bit!

Seeing the potential and calling it out of people is what God does.

In the Bible He often changes someone’s name as a symbol of their renewed calling:

Abram (which means high father) becomes Abraham (father of many) and his wife Sarai (princess) becomes Sarah (mother of nations) [Genesis 17:5].  This was when Sarah was 90 and childless, yet it comes to pass.

And in the New Testament Jesus calls Simon (God has heard)  Peter which means rock [John 1:42] promising ‘on this rock I will build my church’ [Matthew 16:18], which seems improbable given Simon’s background as a fisherman.  Yet the Church still stands today, and can be traced to Peter’s talk in Acts 2.

In each of these examples God is seeing who He made the individual to be and calls it out of them. Never failing to hope and trust that they will become who they are made to be, however unlikely it looks when he calls them, and even when they screw up once they are have their new name : Sarah doesn’t believe and laughs at God’s promise she will have children,  and then to compound the issue lies about it [Genesis 18:12;15]. Peter’s screw ups are more numerous than I can list. Yet God’s plan prevails.

He has placed a calling and potential in you as well.

And His plan will prevail.

Questions:

-Who is God calling you to be?

– What situations are you struggling with? What good can you see in them?

-What can you encourage someone in today? It might be in their character or an action.

Resources:

http://mariners.aspireonemedia.com/1850/5649/20300#.VdTZxZXB1NQ.twitter

http://soulsurvivor.com/other-events/naturally-supernatural/session-videos (specifically session 5-Simon Holley)