By Maria Kneas
(LT author of Strength for Tough Times)
In Psalm 34, David makes a decision to bless the Lord at all times, no matter what is happening in his life. We can do the same thing:
I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. (Psalm 34:1-3)
Years ago, my husband had a massive heart attack. The phrase “I will bless the LORD at all times” came to my mind while I was in the hospital waiting to see whether or not he would survive. As a result, I spent the time while I was waiting singing hymns and worship songs instead of worrying. My husband survived, and God gave both of us joy in that hospital in spite of the circumstances.
The Apostle Paul also exhorts his listeners to bless the Lord at all times. He encourages them to sing songs of worship and praise and to rejoice in the Lord:
Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:19-20)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. (Colossians 3:16-17)
Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)
Paul practiced what he preached. He and Silas were attacked by a mob. Then the Romans gave them a severe beating with rods (with “many stripes”) and put them in prison with their feet in the stocks.
Did Paul and Silas complain, saying “God, why did You let this happen to us?” No. They prayed and sang praises to God—loudly enough for the other prisoners to hear them (Acts 16:22-25).
And how did God respond? There was an earthquake, and the prison doors opened, and they were set free from their fetters. This affected the man in charge of the prison so much so that he and his household were converted and baptized (Acts 16:26-34).
If you had been whipped like Paul—with your back torn open, bleeding, and painful—and then thrown into a filthy prison, with your feet in the stocks (which is painful), would you feel like singing and praising God? I sure wouldn’t.
If, like David, you faithfully served a powerful leader—and instead of appreciating it, he tried to murder you and hunted you like an animal—would you feel like blessing the Lord? I wouldn’t. That definitely does not come naturally.
Paul and David demonstrated that it is possible. And God doesn’t play favorites. He is willing to give us the grace to do the same kinds of things.
Therefore, if we truly desire to “rejoice always” and “give thanks in all circumstances,” then God will enable us to do it. And, like Paul and Silas, we may see amazing results when we do.
If we don’t really desire to do it, then we can ask God to change our hearts so that we want to praise and thank Him no matter what happens to us.
What God has done for us is far more important—and far more lasting—than anything that people or circumstances can do to us. As a result, it is reasonable (in addition to being biblical) to thank and praise God while we are enduring pain and hardship.
Paul went through great suffering, including being whipped, beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked, and imprisoned. Yet he called all of that a “light affliction” because he saw it in terms of eternity rather than our brief time here on earth. Paul focused on the long-term fruit that God was bringing as a result of his suffering rather than focusing on the pain of the moment.
God’s grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9). He is willing and able to give us that same eternal perspective—which results in gratitude, thanksgiving, and praise, in spite of our circumstances.
(an excerpt from Strength for Tough Times)