How easy it is to praise God when everything is going well – when our problems are all resolved, the sun is shining, and we have no worries. But should our praise be confined to these moments when we are well? I was struck recently reading through some of the Psalms by the amount of pain that David endured; some of his own making, and some made by the enemies that lined up against him.
Pain is pain whatever the source, and sometimes it’s worse when it’s our own fault. Psalm 55 also talks of a very deep pain when a good friend David knew and trusted turned against him. You can only be hurt that deeply by a friend: after all, we expect enemies to do nasty things to us, but we don’t expect it of friends. There was an evaluation of the top 10 love songs during the last century and it was discovered that 7 out of the 10 were written from a place of pain. For instance, Percy Sledge is believed to have got up on stage and sang the song ‘When a Man Loves a Woman ‘ spontaneously. He never prepared this in advance. He was unemployed, and his girlfriend had just left him, so he sang out of his pain. A talent scout spotted him and the rest is history.
Psalms were intended to be sung in worship and some were sung in the temple, yet David’s psalms were so full of pain. Hardly the sort of content we ‘d use as a praise song today! I don’t suggest we praise God because of our pain, but we praise Him even though we are in pain. Jesus knew what was going to happen to Him and yet he was able to glorify His Father. Paul was able to sing songs in prison. If God isn’t there in our moments of darkness and even despair, and only in our moments of joy and elation, then He really isn’t God in our lives at all.
Even the famous Psalm 23 – though it praises God as our shepherd and our guide – mentions the valley of the shadow of death. Praise the Lord, there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Jesus said I will never leave you or forsake you. In those moments of darkness, we can still praise Him. Just remember pain motivates us. If I have a toothache, I go to the dentist. When we are struggling, that is often when we turn to God. The children of Israel tended to turn back to God when they had a problem.
But praise isn’t only for when there are problems. Praise can be the source of our victory. 2 Chronicles 20:22 says, ‘As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon ‘ (their enemy). In Joshua 6 we read how they praised the Lord as they walked around the walls of Jericho, they kept praising the Lord for six days and, on the seventh day, they increased their intensity of praise by walking around the walls seven times and then the enemy was defeated.
Pain motivates us, it is a call to action, we have to do something. Praise changes our perspective and allows God to intervene.