I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High. (Psalm 7:17)
I will never forget a season of my life about sixteen years ago when our family was hit with one thing after another. The weight of the burdens for my loved ones threatened to take me under emotionally and spiritually. I clung to my time alone with God in the early mornings, when I would dwell in the psalms and cry out to Him in my prayer journal for a breakthrough or just a glimmer of hope.
One day as I was writing out Psalm 121 in my journal, the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart to follow the psalmist’s lead and offer a sacrifice of praise to God. I remember being taken aback—in the midst of my sorrow God wanted me to turn to praise and thanksgiving!?
But I’m forever grateful that I chose to obey Him and worship God with praise that day, as it set me on a journey of praising and giving thanks even when sorrow or trials threaten to overwhelm. I still have that journal and can turn to the specific day, June 10, 2003, when I began my journey of praising and giving thanks, no matter what I face in this earthly life.
Early that morning, as I wept, I wrote a list in my shaky handwriting of what I was thankful for, including:
- Moments of joy, peace, comfort
- God’s Word and its power to transform lives
- Healing tears
- Peace beyond understanding
- Joy in the storm
- His resurrection power
- The hope of heaven
The Bible calls this a “sacrifice of praise” in Hebrews 13:15, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”
The psalmist David modeled this for us in many of the psalms he wrote. He often wrote songs of worship and thanksgiving while running for his life from King Saul and his men, even while hiding in caves (Psalms 57 and 142), or from his own son Absalom (Ps. 3). Can you imagine running for your life and hiding in a dark and damp cave, yet turning to praise and worship?
Psalm 57 is such a beautiful example of giving a sacrifice of praise even in the midst of sorrow or fear. I encourage you to read the entire psalm out loud. Notice how David cries out to God about his dire circumstances, asking for mercy and protection, but he also chooses to praise and worship his God, even as he struggles with fear. This beautiful song of lament, coupled with praise, crescendos to a shout of thanksgiving:
Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! (vv. 8–11)
I’ve always wondered if David sang this song of praise over his men as they huddled together, terrified in the cave, to help calm their fears. Or perhaps it was just between him and his God as he scratched down the words in the early morning hours, clinging to hope that their lives would be spared.
Dear one, perhaps you are in the midst of your own “cave” of despair right now. Or as a ministry leader, you know that many of the women you serve are hurting, and your heart is heavy for them. I pray that you, too, can choose a sacrifice of praise, even while you are grieving or groaning in prayer.
That doesn’t mean that the suffering will end, but I promise you that it will help turn your heart more toward Him—the One who is high and lifted up, seated on the throne, but also ever close to your broken heart (Isa. 57:15).
When trials come, I know it is often difficult to focus our thoughts, let alone to choose to praise and worship Him. But you can borrow my hope for now if you need to. These are some of the practical ways that help me focus my heart and mind on praise and worship, even when I thought the storms would take me under:
- Journal your prayers of lament and thanksgiving and praise following David’s example. My journal from that difficult season of my life, 2003–2005, has become a treasure, because I filled the pages with the cries (and groans) of my heart, but also with sacrifices of praise on most days.
- Write out your favorite psalms that bring comfort and also offer praise. Dwelling on those sacred, ancient words will breathe hope into your story today, while helping create a rhythm of praise in your daily life. Some favorites of mine are Psalms 91, 103, 119, and 139.
- When fear or sorrow threaten to overtake you, try falling asleep to worship music, capturing your thoughts with lyrics that focus on His majesty, power, and protection.
- Try the “Alphabet of Praise” by beginning your time of prayer focusing on His names and attributes as you go through the alphabet. My husband and I used to do this with our girls when they were young while on road trips or while putting them to bed at night. It’s a practice I still follow as an empty nester when it’s difficult for me to fall asleep. For example, “Heavenly Father, I worship you as my Almighty God. You are Beautiful. You are Compassionate . . .”
Psalm 145 is one of my favorite of David’s songs of praise. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the mighty shepherd king wove together a work of art, in which each verse begins with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
As part of your own worship today, I encourage you to turn to that beautiful psalm of praise, and pray it out loud as you join the psalmist in praise, beginning with . . .
I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. (vv. 1–2)
May it be so in our own lives today!