"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." Psalm 100:4
Many of us will join with family or friends tomorrow to celebrate a day of Thanksgiving. We will gather around beautifully set tables filled with tantalizing dishes that entice our stomachs and enthrall our senses, their aromas warming our hearts with the familiar comfort tradition brings. Many will pause before they feast to offer a word of thanks, choosing this day to recognize publicly something they have to be grateful for.
Some sitting around those tables will be wearing forced smiles, trying to mask the sorrow in their hearts. As they listen to words of gratitude escaping the lips of those around them, they know they should rejoice with them, but envy swallows any feelings of joy over their gladness. Instead of rejoicing, bitterness gnaws at the heart, and the temptation presents itself to rail at a God who appears to pick others as favorites.
Sometimes, our human nature feeds us the lie that we have nothing to be grateful for. Circumstances overwhelm us, pain engulfs us, and we begin to drown in a sea of sorrow as disappointments and heartache crash over us in unrelenting, crushing waves. The weight seems too much, and the thought of fighting our way to the surface seems impossible. So, why even try? Why, indeed.
God offers this promise in Isaiah 51:3.
“The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.”
Do you know that we serve a God whose specialty is the rebuilding of ruins? Who turns wastelands into fruitful gardens? Who replaces emptiness with joy and gladness with such radical transformation that the recipient’s heart cannot help but respond and overflow with thanksgiving and praise?
Perhaps we have misunderstood the promise of blessing given to us in Christ. Sometimes we interpret abundance in Christ to mean that we should suffer no pain, but that’s not what His Word teaches. Jesus Himself said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus does not promise us a trouble free life. Unfortunately, until Christ returns to establish His eternal kingdom, we will all have to deal with pain. What He does offer is the means to overcome our troubles when we cry out to Him in the midst of them.
God delights when we bring our petitions before Him, and we should boldly approach His throne of grace to seek His aid. But one, singular response in us begins our transition from the wasteland to the garden: the sacrifice of praise.
Psalm 8:2 teaches, “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.”
Praise silences our enemy and begins to move us along the path to joy and restoration. Why? Because when praises to God escape our lips in our time of greatest need, those words we utter reflect a deeper seed taking root in the depths of our heart. They constitute a release of faith.
Praising God in the midst of our pain says, “I don’t understand, but I trust you.” It speaks to both God and our enemy that we are certain of things we can’t currently see. It says, “I know that God is here, I know that He loves, and I know that He does not fail.” Offering our praises to God lifts the shield of faith, and according to Ephesians 6:16, extinguishes “all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Our enemy can’t hurt us with his lies if we refuse to believe them.
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrews 13:15). Let’s make every day a day of thanksgiving, asking God to shift our focus away from our troubles and praise Him for the many blessings we really do have to be thankful for. Sometimes praise does feel like a sacrifice, but when we offer it anyway, we open the door to grace.
Praise Him, dear one, and experience the miraculous as bit by bit the Spirit of Christ causes your heart to follow your lips. And, “Joy and gladness will be found in [you], thanksgiving and the sound of singing” (Isaiah 51:3). Oh, glorious day!