As we near the end of Summer 2015 (brb crying), I look back at all that has happened in the world and in our country since May and I pause like a deer in headlights. Flooding in Texas, drought in California, horrific shootings in Charleston and Chattanooga, the probable Iranian nuclear deal, the legalization of gay marriage, Greece being in a serious financial crisis, Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair and winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, the confederate flag controversy… the list goes on.
On a more personal level, I know so many people who are hurting in various ways, with cancer and addictions, body image misconceptions and eating disorders, failing marriages, lost and wandering loved ones, and broken relationships just to name a few.
Think about people in your life for a second. Where I know people wrestling with failing marriages, you might know others dealing with a miscarriage. What are the people around you dealing with? I think it is safe to say that if you’re on Earth, then all around you there is suffering and trial to be found.
In a time where sin and evil are near and clearly in view, something strange has happened to me. The lyrics of the old hymn have become true in my life:
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”
Instead of being paralyzed and dumbfounded by the weight of incredibly tragic, devastating, and life-changing events in our nation and in our personal lives, we can remember and acknowledge: God reigns supreme. The God of the universe is sovereign and is in control.
I think back to 1 Samuel where the author recounts the details of David’s life on the run as Saul pursues him with intent to kill him. We know through the Psalms that David wrote that he was distressed during this time and that indeed his very life depended on God’s provision and protection.
During a time of incredible tragedy in our country and countless trials that move me to tears, I want nothing more than to respond the way David did in Psalm 57 as he was running for his life from Saul. Verses 4 and 5 read:
“I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts- men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”
I mean honestly. Yeah, I see hard, awful things, but my very life is not being threatened as David’s was. However, 9 times out of 10, my prayers look something like this: “God help me with this, and make this situation better through your healing, and what do I do in this circumstance, and are you not even listening to me? I asked you to show up and where the heck are you. What do I do about this? What is your plan, what are you doing?!” Me, me, me, me. That is not what we see David doing, even as he was dancing dangerously close to death. Instead, he was focused on God, who He is, and His glory. He had an eternal perspective. Praising in the midst of chaos.
If you look at Chapter 57 in its entirety, you see that although he does cry out to God for help, more verses are spent praising God than are focused on his own need.
May that be our response, as Christians, to the God of the Universe. May that be our natural posture towards the one who is beyond our comprehension yet knowable and personal. May praise be always our instinct. And may we live lives in habit of praise to Him, regardless of our environment or current state of affairs.
As believers, we have a Hope. A reason to praise when praise seems like the most illogical, ill-timed response. We are called to do more than sit and ask for help even when we need it most, or even for those around us. Praise must also occur, because it shifts our focus and correctly brings into view truth and reality.
A sort of modern day Psalm that I love is a song called “Come Alive (Dry Bones)” by the talented Lauren Daigle. The beginning of the song says:
“Through the eyes of men it seems
There's so much we have lost
As we look down the road
Where all the prodigals have walked
And one by one
The enemy has whispered lies
And led them off as slaves
But we know that you are God
Yours is the victory
We know there is more to come
That we may not yet see
So with the faith you've given us
We'll step into the valley unafraid, yeah
As we call out to dry bones
Come alive, come alive
And we call out to dead hearts
Come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes
Let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones, come alive”
Go listen to the song and be overcome with the incredible power that God has, and that we have as Christians because of Christ in us. We do not have to resign to the fact that the world is quickly turning farther and farther away from Jesus. He is the God of redemption and He is in the habit of bringing dry bones to life – a sheer miracle – and heaven knows that we have some dry bones and some lifeless situations here on earth. But the power of Christ reigns supreme, and we are called to share that story and continue the narrative of redemption as we walk through life focused not on ourselves, but rather on God and His character and what He is about.
So when you do not know how to pray more or better or differently for a certain situation, turn instead to praise. Praise God with scripture like the Psalms, or songs that celebrate who He is. Doing so, you will see His promises and His power come into view and your hope in Christ will be renewed. You will learn to love Him not for what He can do to make things better, but simply for who He is and what He has done for us in light of our own sin. In a nutshell, no matter the question or problem, praise is always the answer.
- Mary Margaret // @margegunn