Friday, October 7, 2011

Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me

     Years ago, my husband and I used to watch a show called "Hee Haw".  It was a country music show that featured funny little vignettes, clean jokes and good music.  One particular scene has always remained in my mind.  Several men were sitting around on the ground with their old blood hound stretched out beside them and they sang:  "Gloom, despair and agony on me; deep, dark depression excessive misery.  If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all. Gloom, despair and agony on me."  Of course, these fellows hammed it up by telling a brief story of their bad luck in between choruses.  It always brought a chuckle.  While the show poked fun at those who choose to have a negative outlook, the truth is that there are many in our world who seem to enjoy wallowing in the mud of self pity and gloom.  For them, all of life seems to be against them.  As believers, we are to demonstrate a different outlook on life.
     Within the book of Psalms, one of the key phrases given over and over is "Praise the Lord".  In the opening of Psalm 146: 1-2, we read:  "Praise the Lord!  Praise the Lord O my soul!  I will praise the Lord as long as I live.  I will sing praises to my God while I have being."  Then in Psalm 147:1, we read:  "Praise the Lord!  For it is good to sing praises to our God, for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting."  Each Psalm on to the end of the book (Psalm 150) begins with this phrase.  In several of my education classes in college, our professor reminded us  that repetition was the best way to bring home a point, and he was right.  Any time a phrase or group of words is repeated we know that it is important to remember, and the Psalmists wanted God's people to know the importance of praise.  So why is praise so important to the Christian life?
Stained Glass Window at St. Giles Cathedral
Edinburgh, Scotland
     First, God is worthy of our praise (Revelations 5:11-14 and I Chronicles 16:25).  He is our Creator, Redeemer, the great I Am, the Alpha and Omega and our King of Kings.  Without Him, we would not exist or even take our next breath.  He made us in His image that we might glorify Him.  He provides for our needs and He sent His only Son to die for our sins.  Is there any more reason than this?  He is due our praise every day.
     Secondly, praising God reflects an attitude of obedience.  It is not always easy to praise God and at times, it is more than difficult.  However, the Lord tells us to offer up a sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:5).  As scripture tells us, the fruit of our lips is an offering before our Father in heaven.  An added benefit to praising God when we are having a hard time is that it lifts us up as we lift Him up.   We can offer up righteous praise by singing praise songs or reading the Psalms out loud.  Certainly, if we do not know what to praise Him for, we can find abundant reasons in the Bible.  I challenge you to try to remain depressed if you make praise a regular part of your prayer life.
     Finally, praise keeps our eyes and hearts focussed on what matters most in life - the Lord.  Psalm 22:3 tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people.  Even Jesus reminded us that "where our treasure was there would be our heart also" (Luke 12:34).  Investing our songs, words and hearts into the store house of God will reap blessings of a closer relationship to the sustainer of our lives.
The Cathedral at York, England
     One thing that needs to be clear, though, is that praise cannot be used to manipulate God to do what we want,  Sadly, our flesh is so eager to leap to the conclusion that if I just praise the Lord enough I will earn points from Him and He will answer my requests.  Nowhere in scripture, however, does it say that God dances to our tune.  We are His creation not the other way around.  We live to serve and worship Him.
     As our minds are renewed through prayer and Bible study, we will not be able to do any less than praise our  Lord.  In heaven, we will join the angels and the saints who have gone before in unending praise for what God has accomplished.  Therefore, we need to spend time practicing here on a daily basis.    The alternative, of course, is to lay down and join the boys on "Hee Haw" and start singing about all the gloom and despair.  This is what the world does all around us.  But if we want to make an impact as God's light and salt in this life, we need to praise the God of our salvation.  Let us take to heart the words of the Psalmist:  "From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised" (Psalm 113:3).  Selah!

How do you praise the Lord?  What helps you remember the good things He has done for you?  I welcome your thoughts and insights here.


Pam said...

Loved your three reasons why it is important to praise. I was also struck by the phrase "Nowhere in scripture, does it say that God dances to our tune." We seem to think we are in control. I praise God that we are NOT!
Music always ushers me into an attitude of praise. And reaching out to others in need serves to remind me of how God has met my need.
Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Barbara!

Barbara Thayer said...

You are most welcome Pam. That is why I write. I want to encourage others...and as I write, I preach to myself!!! :) Praise is so important in our walk and something I try to do because it makes all the difference in the way I look at things. Thanks for sharing my friend....I love good praise music too!

Christina said...

Barabara -- you have no idea how your post ministered to my soul tonight. Don't you know I've been joining the boys on Hee Haw and singing all about my gloom and despair over the troubles of my soul!

I pulled aside tonight and read Ps 42 & 43. "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 and my God." (Ps 43:5) and of course I prayed.

When despair and trouble surround and overwhelm us, by God's grace, we must do what you have said -- and what the Psalmist has said, "these things I remember as I pour out my soul" (Ps 42:4). We recall His faithfulness, His goodness, His sovereignty.

I may have to read this a few more times tonight. You have ministered greatly to my soul. Thank you and God bless you my precious sister!

Barbara Thayer said...

Thank you Christina. I am blessed that this touched you. Your writing does the same for me. Is it not precious that as believers we can live to lift each other up! That is so critical! Loved the scriptures you shared too. Those Psalms are two of my favorites. May God bless you and give you a wonderful week ahead to His praise and glory!!!