Are you going through a storm in your life? It may be that the idea of singing “Raise A Hallelujah!” in the middle of a pending tragedy or when one is going through mourning sounds weird. I personally do know the challenge of giving praise to God, Almighty when facing sad news. It’s not easy!
How can I praise Jesus when I am hurting? My mother is in a nursing home with dementia? How about “Our children are in the hospital and could die of a nasty viral infection?” If I took the time, this list can easily grow. The idea of praising God when one is suffering seem to be a natural contradiction.
Does praising God in the middle of a storm really work? Yes, it does work and I’d like to share my perspectives on this challenging endeavor. It is certainly possible; especially if you ask God for help.
When I read the story behind the song written and composed by Jonathan and Melissa Helser, it resonated in my own heart. The story is a callback to what a friend told me when I started the long journey of caring for my mother. “Let’s start by praising God”. Though challenging, I am glad that I did so.
Their friends, Joel and Janie Taylor were going through their own storm. Both of their young children were infected by E-Coli and had a sentence of death. The Taylor reached out to the Bethel community for prayers and support. I will let your read the incredible story behind this song at Bethel Music “Story Behind the Song, Raise A Hallelujah!” Did the children survive? Sorry, you will have to read the story for yourself.
The idea of giving praise in the middle of a storm is not a new one. Actually, James makes a startling comment in a letter taht he wrote.
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.James 1:2-4 [NKJV]
When I first read the above verse, it seems a strange advice given to someone suffering. It seems that James had no clue; in reality, the man knew what it meant to suffer. The early Church Fathers did not have an easy time; as they were being slaughtered for proclaiming the name of Jesus.
Oddly enough, this is the very Scripture that helped me when I had to deal with the reality of my mother in the nearby nursing home. In April 2013, my mother suffered a brain aneurysm leading to a stroke and a paralysis on the left side of her body. The stroke is not the only problem my mother faced. She also developed dementia.
My family and I were facing some very difficult times, and I thank Jesus for being there through the whole drama. Thankfully, we were not alone for I had been blessed by my friends in my home church and friends in my local community. The same thing was happening for other members of the family.
Did I praise God by blindly ignoring my personal pains and I was being hammered by it? No, I took a page from King David. Have you ever read carefully through the book of Psalms? The Book of Psalms is a collection of ancient Hebrew songs and David is a major contributor. His songs are ripe with raw emotions and transparency.
David was not afraid to be upfront with God. He sang from his heart and spoke many incredible things that may shock modern churchgoers. Here’s one from Psalms 42. He and his men had just got home to see their village ransacked and their families taken away. His men were ready to kill David because of their grief
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation 6 and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;Psalms 42:3-6 [ESV]
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
Do not be afraid to be emotionally honest with God. Though David and his men suffered greatly; he chose to praise God and place his hope in God, Almighty. This idea of giving thanks to God did not come overnight. How do I know? I did the same thing, as David. I gave thanks to God, the Father and acknowledged Jesus during the good time.
I have read the Scriptures, many times and life testifies to the same thing. I am going to have rough times in my life. I’d have to stick my head in the sand to think, otherwise. Because of this truth, the idea of praising God in all seasons is not a foreign concept. That is why I chose to give thanks in the good times; so I could thank Jesus when times are rough.
It is like weight training. You start with the light one and work your way up. However, you don’t have to panic because you have a great spotter named Jesus. His Spirit can do a lot more than give you a pep talk. Do not be afraid to ask Jesus for help in knowing what to praise God for; especially if you’re not used to the idea.
Why do I say, “Do not be afraid to ask God for help?” God is the Father of relationship; not religion. I am simply pointing you to a starting point to a relationship with God. Here is another key to furthering that relationship and you may have guessed it. Get to know Jesus by reading the four gospels. Take the time to read what Paul says in his 13 letters. Do not be afraid to ask Jesus about what you’re reading.
You will come to know God, the Father through Jesus and the Holy Spirit is able to help you. There is a reason that the Holy Spirit is called the Comforter and you’ll discover it through spending time in prayer and reading the Bible.
Am I laying the groundwork for a claim that you won’t have trouble or be hurt by trials? Hardly! This type of logic is fallacious and a recipe for disaster. Here’s what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:7-9. I, for one find it comforting that I need not be panicking when trouble comes.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;2 Corinthians 4:7-9 [ESV]
The treasure is the Spirit of God who is able to help us in times of weakness or trouble. Of course, the choice is yours. Are you willing to receive this great source of help? It’s one reason that I am willing to praise God in the middle of a storm. How about you? Are you open to the God of All Comfort? What do I mean?
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.2 Corinthians 1:3-5 [ESV]
I can’t end this blog post and not talk about the peace of Christ. For it is what helps believers through many of rough trials. It is not a peace that comes from human strength or force of will. It can only come from spending time with Jesus. Here is an interesting take on Philippians 4:6-7. There is one catch. Jesus is the key to this
6 Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, 7 then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ.Philippians 4:6=7 [The Passion Translation]
You may be tempted to think the above is all talk. Not really. The Taylor’s two children were miraculously healed and I celebrate with their victory. However, my mother passed away on Monday of this week. My heart is strengthen by the peace of Chris and knowing she’s at peace, after 8 years of suffering.
I will end by saying “I will raise a Hallelujah in the middle of the storm!” Praise God and thank you for always being there! What God has done for me; God is able and willing to do for you! Be not afraid to receive Him!–