It is easy to praise God when we are winning at life, but what does it look like when things are not going our way? It is easy to see God in triumphant moments but not so much when we feel He is silent.
As people of God we are called to honour Him, trust Him and praise Him in all circumstances.
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God. —Psalm 42:11
The psalmist here instructs himself to hope in God and expresses an inner determination to keep praising Him.
Is it possible to praise God in difficult times?
I love this quote by Louie Giglio “God’s plans for your life far exceeds the circumstances of your day.”
Our circumstances may not always be good, but God is always good.
Our circumstances change, but He does not.
The outcome of our circumstances may not be certain, but we can be sure of Him. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8)
He is faithful and it is a choice we have to make to praise Him in spite of the mountains we face.
In Acts 16:16-36, we read how Paul and Silas sing praises to God when they are imprisoned. They were preaching and teaching the word of God in their travels when they encounter a slave girl who was possessed by a spirit that allowed her to speak about the future which proved to be a source of easy income for her owners. She kept following and bothering them. Paul eventually gets troubled with this and heals her and frees her from this spirit. The owners are unhappy with the loss of their source of easy money and under false pretences they get Paul and Silas arrested, beaten and imprisoned.
In the NIV it says Paul was troubled, to get a little more clarity – in the NIRV it says he got upset, in the amplified version it says he got annoyed and tired.
Paul would be the first to acknowledge he is not perfect and merely human. We see a glimpse of his humanity here. He freed the girl of the spirit in the name of Jesus but we get the idea that his intention was to put a stop to her bothering them rather than pure kindness.
It is good to be reminded that we do not have to be perfect for God to use us.That while we are called to serve God, HIS saving and healing power is not dependent on our motives or patience. HE works through us even when we are not at our best.
In the second half of the story we see Paul being remarkably patient. He and Silas are singing praises to God after being beaten, imprisoned and shackled.
Paul discerns God’s bigger purpose here.
We may not have control over our problems but we can have control over how we respond in light of those problems.
If I try and imagine myself in a similar situation, I think I will find myself praying, yes, most probably asking God to get me out of the situation but to be singing, praising and declaring the goodness of God. I am not so sure I would right away find myself doing that.
Verse 25 of Acts 16 says “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying. They were also singing hymns to God. The other prisoners were listening to them.”
The other prisoners were listening to them singing and praising God. That gave me pause, the world is listening to what believers say and do. We can either grumble about our problem or praise our God.
What we face in life can be huge and often feel like unfair challenges, but we can choose to praise the one bigger than our problems.
Praise changes our perspective.
What does praising God in the midst of trying times helps us do?
Praise takes our eyes off the problem and puts our faith in alignment with Jesus. It allows us to believe for something bigger, to hope in HIM who is steadfast.
We then read of the sudden earthquake that opens all the prison doors and loosened their chains, the jailer terrified of what would happen to him when his superiors discovered the prisoners escaped under his watch, thought to take his own life but Paul assured him that no one has escaped.
How do we respond to a hopeless situation?
Let’s take a quick look at the jailer’s response to a hopeless situation – he responds in a hopeless way, by thinking there was only one solution. But how do Paul and Silas respond to a hopeless situation – with hope, by praising God.
The jailer then asks what he must do to be saved and Paul says that he must believe in the Lord Jesus. Yes, there is no other way.
The same jailer who most probably was among those who inflicted the beating takes them home, washes their wounds and gives them a meal. His whole family gets baptised.
We see that things shifted when Paul and Silas praised God in the midst of their difficult situation.
Did Paul and Silas get released immediately? No, their breakthrough came only the next day when they were released from the prison.
The praise and worship of Paul and Silas not only changed their situation but it also changed the situation of someone else and their family.
Our pastor mentioned something that stuck with me, he said that when something happens, we tend to focus on the ‘why’ a lot but let us also look to the ‘what’– what is God going to do through this.
Sometimes we get the answer to the ‘why’ really quick. But in this story the ‘why’ was the miracle for the Jailer and his family rather than for Paul and Silas.
Sometimes the mountain that is in the way for us becomes the platform on which to stand because of what God has done in us and He uses that to reach other people through us.
True joy and peace do not originate with us but HE is the source of it all and HE blesses us with it.
No matter what, I will bless the Lord at all times-his praise shall continually be on my lips – Psalm 34:1.