Five Times to Praise God
[FROM THE ARCHIVES: Originally published shortly after an adoption “false start” of sorts, several years ago. But I have found it is necessary to remember in these days as well. Also, because adoption is always sensitive even when it doesn’t pan out, I have been intentionally vague about the details of our disappointment.]
For what it’s worth — EVERY time is a good time to praise God. It's always good to praise His holy name...but this is simply to highlight specific times that I am working through right now, as God seems to have closed the door on this adoption. We had a very harrowing few days, with a wild array of ups and downs. I know I am only beginning to process it, but I am so confident in the grace of my Lord Jesus, that I feel free to share these initial thoughts with you. I know it is a different kind of grief, adoption loss, but I am no stranger to losing babies and the seeming loss of hope. Yet what is real? I have not lost Hope. Jesus...the sweetest name I know...
1. Praise His name when you realize you're praying all wrong.
This weekend, I found myself praying for this hope of adoption and each time I said something like "God, show me Yourself in this", I realized I was following it up with something like, "So I can know what to do". It was the awful thing of realizing I'm asking God to do something for me or act on my behalf, because I want answers and security more than anything else. So I stopped. I actually stopped and laughed out loud and repented. Because God is not there to make me promises and fix things so I feel better. God's great love is there to draw us to Himself and to compel us to be an expression of His life to others. So I rerouted my prayers and began praising Him for His goodness and His provision. It felt uncomfortable and forced. At first. And then, because of God's grace, it grew into a confident assurance of His presence and tender care in my life. I'm so grateful.
2. Praise His name when you don't want to.
This must be a discipline. Because when I read the text messages that felt like personal assaults - my first thoughts were angry and hurt. And self-righteous. I had a LOT of self-righteous responses. Praise was not among my first responses. Our prayer has always been that God would be glorified...and I thought that was going to mean TO those people directly involved, because of our willingness to adopt. But the glory of God likely can't be expressed to the expectant mother or to our advocates or to anybody else if it is not first IN me. God must be glorified in me before I can be used of Him to display glory to others...so my whispers are weak right now...BUT PRAISE GOD for His life and His many gifts to us. May my praise grow louder. And may I be content if His glory is for His eyes only...not something I can see & recount publicly.
3. Praise His name because it is right.
Scripture is filled to bursting with men and women praising God because they were compelled to - not only because He moved mightily for/in them, but because of His holy goodness. Many liturgical traditions even use the phrase as part of the celebration of eucharist: "It is right to give Him thanks and praise". In Nehemiah 9, the Israelites are confessing and worshiping before God. There were a group of Levites on the platform and it's recorded that they called with loud voices to God and said, "Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting!" I totally put that exclamation point in there on my own. But you can't really say that without shouting, honestly. STAND UP AND PRAISE THE LORD YOUR GOD! Whatever your circumstances, whatever your fears and anxieties, whatever the day and time, it is always right to praise the name of Jesus, your Savior and Deliverer.
4. Praise His name when your feelings start trying to be the boss of you.
Because your feelings are not always accurate indicators of reality, friends. They react really big to very real things, but feelings are rarely telling you the whole truth. Saturday, I spent much of the day in a daze of sorts. I couldn't actually identify what I was feeling, I just knew it was low. It felt muddled and confused. It felt like there was no hope - adoption is, in part, hope for families who can't bear children and when that hope is dashed...it feels hopeless. But since I can rarely be certain of what I am feeling and even less sure of how to respond in those times where feelings are so strong, there is one safe course of action: praise His name. Just like #2 up there, praise His name when you don't want to, it feels forced and weak...even like you don't mean it. But heavens, don't wait until you mean it. Your feelings may boss you around. The name of Jesus is a strong tower the righteous run to and they are saved. Praise His name to tell your feelings Who is boss.
5. Praise His name when you have no idea what God is doing.
Two months ago when we began this journey, it really seemed like God was going to give us this baby in a really extraordinary way. We were cautious and excited and had no idea how He would do it. We praised Him. Now, when it appears He is not giving us this baby, we are saddened and feel the acute loss ...we have no idea what He is doing (in full) and the temptation is to try to figure it out. What is God doing? Is there a precedent for this? Maybe we can figure out how He is going to behave if we do x, y, then z with our fingers crossed. Maybe if I had more faith He would have done it. Maybe if I prayed differently or been more outspoken about the gospel or...something. Those are not faithful expressions, they demand that God act a particular way - an evidence-based-only faith is really walking by sight. Those responses and thoughts are me-centric. They revolve around ME and getting what I want out of God. And a life well-lived for the Father is a Jesus-centered one. To live is CHRIST. To live is to praise His name, because when you cannot discern the mind of God, obedience and praise are always appropriate responses.
I can write this because I'm learning it and battling it and fleshing it out, not because I've mastered it. And because of His life in me, today I can take deep breaths and believe that His goodness is not changed. And I can praise Him.