Monday, August 4, 2008

Sacrifices of Praise

Tonight you get the scoop - the real reason I started blogging.

When this "storm" in my life began last month, I prepared myself to be overwhelmed by discouragement, disappointment, doubt, hurt and anger. I mistakenly believed the bigger the storm, the harder the struggle with your faith. I actually consoled myself by thinking about how much worse it could have been.

But what happened next transformed my understanding....

Where I should feel discouragment, I felt encouraged. Instead of disappoinment, I have trust. Where doubt is the obvious choice, I have faith. Healing instead of hurt and Peace instead of anger.

That's not to say I don't have grief. I do. Intensely sometimes. I am sad for the loss of many dreams, but I am also comforted. I can cry and still feel peace.

It seems to me the more difficult this circumstance has been, the broader God's love has extended to me.

I'm sad to say in the beginning I distanced myself from God in a sense. I didn't talk much to Him directly or open my Bible. I wasn't mad or angry, I even trusted His plan. But I chose to lean on the prayers of others to get me through. And I knew better. If I'm really being honest, something inside me expected to be disappointed if I reached out to Him.

And then I found
Angie's story, Bring The Rain. When I read what she had gone through, it wasn't the shock of her story that got to me, as much as it was her response. In the midst of her darkest days, she sought comfort in her God. She wasn't holding back, afraid of being let down.

It was that night the change began. When my hunger for God's words to pour like a balm over my broken heart overcame my fear of being disappointed. I quietly overcame my fears. After everyone else had gone to bed, I got out my Bible and snuggled in on the couch for a good read.

I started with Isaiah 54, my "life" chapter (some people have a life verse, I'm so in need of God's assurances, I get a chapter). I read through that chapter and then some. All too soon I had reached the end and so I started back at the beginning. Somewhere I fell asleep. Then I woke up and read some more. I read all 66 chapters that night. Obviously I wasn't reading in the comprehensive-soak-in-the-meaning-of-each-verse kind of way. I was reading in the I'm-so-dry-and-empty-I-need-every-drop-I-can-get-to-survive kind of way.

That was the new beginning. Over the last week, I've been assured that God has a better plan than I do. And I say "been assured" because it's pretty unnatural for me. I am a planner, detail oriented no less. I love to know exactly what is going to happen. And when it's going to happen. And once I plan it - I'm not very keen on change.

So, I keep thinking "Why am I so OK when everything is falling apart?" I've spent some time reflecting on this and I think the key is - a willingness to praise Him in spite of it all.

I know this is getting long, but stick with me here. This is where it gets good...

There is something powerful about praising God smack dab in the middle of your suffering, when it is the hardest and when circumstances say you shouldn't. It's like breaking the hold the enemy expects to have over your life - over your emotions, your mind, your spirit.

I was searching for a book, an old favorite of mine - C.H. Spurgeon "The Practice of Praise." I found it tonight and wanted to share....he just writes it so well.

"It is in the storm that we learn to "praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men" Psalm 107:8..... I could wish my whole life to be as calm as a fair summer's evening....I could desire that nothing might again disturb the serenity of my restful spirit. But were it to be so, I suspect I would know but little of the great goodness of the Lord."

"Nobody knows the blessing of health as well as he who has been tortured with pain in every limb. Then he blesses Jehovah Rapha, the healing Lord, for his restoration."

"None know what salvation means like those who have been crushed under the burden of guilt and have been racked by remorse. If so when the Lord has put away your sin....when He has brought you forth from prison, broken your chains, and set your feet upon a rock, then has the new song been in your mouth, even eternal praise. Then have you known it to be great goodness which thus delivered you."

If I might add - Nobody knows the measure of God's amazing comfort or the depth of His peace as well as those who are experiencing loss, hardship or pain.

I recently told my husband that I felt I had a greater appreciation for conception, since we've struggled to conceive. And I have a greater appreciation for healthy babies, since dealing with Madeline's health issues. And now, I have a much greater appreciation for God's presence, His healing, His peace, His comfort and His love.

I'm going to finish with this thought on praise. The Bible says to bring forth a sacrifice of praise (Heb 13:15)....When is praise more of a sacrifice than when what we hold most dear has been taken from us? Think Paul and Silas, singing praises WHILE they were locked in prison - not after they were out. That's a sacrifice!

Interestingly, I looked up the meaning of the word sacrifice. It denotes "the act of offering." I also looked up praise. It denotes "a thank offering."

We could say a sacrifice of praise is "the act of offering thanks."

I realized tonight, that had Troy and I had the privilege of holding this little boy, we would have set up a time to dedicate him to God as soon as we were able, just as we did with our other two children. We would have traveled to our church with our extended family and in front of our pastor and the body of Christ, we would have thanked God for our child and we would have offered our baby to Him.

So while I may not be able to take my baby to church and thank God for him and release him to His care, I can bring the sacrifices of praise (the act of offering thanks) before His feet tonight.

God, I thank You for showing me your faithfulness time and time again, so tonight I can rest upon the history we have, knowing You will be all that I could ever need, even in this storm.

God, I thank You for Your comfort and peace, which reach far beyond anything my mind can comprehend.

God, I thank You for Your complete plan for our family, which I believe is exceedingly, abundantly above all that I could ask or think or even imagine.

God, I thank You that I can pray, along with Paul:

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,

and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,

to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."

Ephesians 3:16-21

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