Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Praise Is Not a Feeling

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says when you choose to be thankful, it doesn't affect just you.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: You see, how I respond when I’m under pressure has an influence on the people around me, and I can lift them up or pull them down. God has used people to lift me up, by them choosing to praise the Lord in the midst of their difficult circumstances.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, November 20

Now let’s pick back up with part 3 of “The ABCs of Handling a Meltdown.”  

Nancy: Well, we keep saying we'll get to Psalm 34. Today, we are going to get to Psalm 34. But I wanted to give you some of the background which we've done over the last couple of days. We've kind of half-seriously titled this series "ABC's of Handling Meltdowns."

I know something about meltdowns; you probably do too, and David did. I'm so glad the Scripture doesn't keep those faults and flaws from our attention. We see he was a man who struggled as we do and found himself, in the parallel passage here in 1 Samuel 21, going off on his own plan to deal with the real life difficult circumstances that he was facing.

Saul was chasing him, but instead of running to the Lord, David first runs to his own conclusions and ends up really acting like a madman. You can read the account in 1 Samuel 21 if you missed the last session here.

But then he comes to the cave of Adullam. He escaped from this situation where he got in trouble. He has time to sit, time to think. His circumstances have not changed. Many times our circumstances don't change immediately, but our thinking needs to change about our circumstances. When it does, we change, and our circumstances look different.

David is still a fugitive. He's still in a cave. He's still in danger, but he has changed. Instead of being obsessed with himself and his problems—which invariably brings confusion, frustration, panic, disorder, and depression—now his life is centered in who God is.

When you live a God-centered life, when your mind is fixed on who God is—I want to tell you, I’m preaching this to myself. This is what I need to hear. When you live this God-centered life, the result is order, peace, and direction. It doesn't mean you don’t have problems, but it means you see the problems differently. You see them through the lens of who God is.

We'll see David saying, "I will bless the Lord. I will boast in the Lord. I will magnify the Lord. I will exalt His name. I will seek Him. I will look to Him. I will fear Him, rather than fearing men or the future. You see how his life has become oriented around who God is, and that's the thrust of what we'll see in Psalm 34. It begins by saying,

I will bless the LORD at all times; 
  his praise shall continually be in my mouth (v. 1).

I like that “I will.” David is in desperate circumstances. He's in difficult circumstances. These are some of the darkest days of his life. Some of it was complicated by his going off on his own. Some of it was hard anyway. Not every hard thing in your life is because you have sinned. Sometimes life is just hard. David faces, through no fault of his own initially, in the midst of all of that, his own failures and failures of others. He says, "I have a determined resolve, and that is to bless the Lord." I will.

This is volitional. It's a choice. Listen, praise is not a feeling. Praise is not an emotion. It may involve our emotions, but it is an act of my will. It is a choice I make to bless the Lord. 

Bless means "to speak well of someone, to speak a good word about them." And the word actually used here, barak, to bless, has connected with it the meaning of "to bend the knee, to kneel down." It means, "I will bless the Lord, but with a heart attitude of humility, a heart attitude of worship."

So David had been going off in a fearful way, and his mind had just gotten out of control. His behavior had gotten out of control. His mind and behavior get reined back in, and he says, "I will make a conscious, disciplined choice in my life that no matter what the circumstances, to bless the Lord." He bends the knee; he bows his heart. He humbles himself.

"Lord, You are bigger; You are more real; You are more present than any circumstance I'm facing in my life. My eyes may be filled with tears, but I’m going to lift Him up, and with a bowed heart, say 'yes.' I embrace these circumstances. I bless You in the midst of them, because You are still good, no matter what King Saul does. No matter what terrors I may be facing in my life, I will bless You. I'll bless You at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth at all times—in the good times and in the bad times, when I’m happy and when I'm sad, when I feel on top of it and when I feel overwhelmed."

The default reaction, David is saying, of my life, the response, the pattern of my life in every circumstance is going to be what? I will bless the Lord. I will praise Him. "His praise" (v. 1).

That word there is a hymn of praise. It's a song that exalts God. "His praise will continually be in my mouth." I think that is an important part of dealing with meltdowns, dealing with depression and discouragement. It is to speak the truth about who God is, to bless Him with our mouths.

"They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony" (Rev. 12:1). To speak the praise of the Lord; to get it from my heart to my mouth. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Luke 6:45). So what's in your heart is going to come out. If your heart is centered on God and focused on Him, then out of that will come blessing of the Lord.

He says in verse 2,

My soul makes its boast in the LORD; 
  let the humble hear and be glad.

To boast in the Lord. That word boast is the Hebrew word, halal. Does that sound like something you've heard before? Hallelujah. Praise to God. Boast in God. The word means "to shine, to be bright, to praise or celebrate, to make something bright." It's the idea of radiance. He says, "I will make a big deal about God."

I'm not going to radiate to other people my problems and my burdens and my concerns, though there is a place for sharing those. But with the goal of pointing each other to the Lord. I’m not going to boast in my frustrations or my issues; I'm going to boast in the Lord. I’m going to make a big deal about Him.

"My soul makes its boast in the LORD." Notice now that others hear him doing this, and they are blessed. They are helped and encouraged. He speaks in the presence of others. If you are going to be talking, you may talk to yourselves sometimes. That’s not a bad thing to do if you're telling yourself the truth. But you need to be telling others the truth, speaking in the hearing of others.

It's interesting it says here, "the humble will hear and be glad." That word for humble here in the Hebrew language can actually mean "depressed." Those who are depressed in mind or in circumstances will hear me praising the Lord.

Think about this. David has been depressed. He has been oppressed by very difficult, painful circumstances. He has been the object of Saul's hatred. Saul's been trying to take his life. He's a fugitive, and this is through no fault of his own. And yet David has found a centeredness in these difficult times, even sitting as a fugitive in a cave fleeing for his life. He has found a centeredness of who God is. He begins not only to think this but to speak it.

Then there are other people around him who hear what he is saying. They have been depressed. What happens when they hear him blessing and praising the Lord? The humble shall hear and be glad. Rejoice. Depressed people rejoicing. You don't think of being depressed and rejoicing going together, but there's a progression here. If I’m depressed and I rejoice in the Lord, then other depressed people who listen to me can be helped and encouraged and made to rejoice in the Lord.

Who are these depressed people who are around David? Well, it's really obvious in 1 Samuel 22. We see that

David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul [the marginal note there is everyone who was discontented], gathered to him (1 Sam. 22:1-2).

Three kinds of people came to visit David when he was in that cave. Those who were in distress, those who were in debt, and those who were discontented. I mean, this is a motley crew. “He became captain over them. And there were with him about four hundred men” (v. 2). 

How would you like to be in a cave with four hundred men who were in distress, in debt, and discontented? Talk about a depressing situation. But he says, "My soul makes its boast in the Lord. Let the humble, the depressed, the ones who are in distress and in debt and discontented, let them hear. He's got a congregation of four hundred depressed men to preach to. He's speaking the truth and their hearts are being changed. They're being comforted, encouraged, and lifted up.

You see, how I respond when I’m under pressure has an influence on the people around me. I can lift them up or pull them down. God has used people to lift me up, by them choosing to praise the Lord in the midst of their difficult circumstances. The number one person who comes to mind who does that for me as the example is Joni Eareckson Tada.

When I see the circumstances she lives in and the hardship she goes through physically, and then I see her singing hymns and praising the Lord, I have this wake up moment. I think, What am I doing down here in the pits? What am I doing being depressed and discouraged. My heart is made glad when I see her rejoicing in the Lord.

Then it makes me wonder who is the depressed person around me that God wants to be lifting them up and making them glad by my being able to praise the Lord in the midst of my difficult and dark moments. My "cave moments," if you will.

Well, it goes on in verse 3 and says,

Oh, magnify the LORD with me, 
  and let us exalt his name together!

Who is he talking to? The four hundred men in the cave who are in distress, in debt, and discontented. He's saying, "Guys, you've all got your circumstances. You know, birds of a feather flock together. We've got a lot of things in common here." But he says to them, "We're not going to sit here in this cave and grouse about our problems. We're not going to say how bad things are, how bad the economy is, how bad are all the people who did terrible things to us. We're not going to sit and whine and complain and be bitter about all of our lives' circumstances."

There are real life circumstances that can make you bitter. But he says, "Magnify the Lord with me. I’m going to do it; you do it with me. Let us exalt His name together."

So he praises God, and then he invites others to join with him. He's getting the focus off of his own need. "I'm going to look to God; you do it with me. Magnify him." We can't make God any greater than He is. He is already infinitely great. But we can magnify Him in our own eyes and in the eyes of others. Put the spotlight on Him versus magnifying ourselves or our problems.

Maybe you've heard that little piece of verse. I don't know if I have it quite right, but the way I remember it is,

Look without and be distressed. 
Look within and be depressed. 
But look to Christ and be at rest.

That's the thought here, magnify the Lord. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. There's power of corporate praise. We're going to come together and focus on the Lord. Listen, you may be having trouble in your marriage. But when you get together with somebody else who is having trouble in their marriage, what do you talk about? Do you bad-mouth your husbands? You may be having trouble with the economy, maybe struggling financially. I'm not saying we don’t share our needs with each other, but it always needs to be for the purpose of helping each other get to Christ, who is our refuge in times of trouble.

So we see in these verses, I think, good insight as to how to minister to other people who are afflicted, who are in distress. When we're in distress, we don’t really want somebody saying to us, “O praise the Lord.” What we think we want is for somebody to come and hug us and say, “I know how you feel. I feel so bad. I've been through that myself. I can't believe that so-and-so did that to you.” We think we want sympathy.

Now, there is a place for biblical Christlike mercy. Let me say, we can actually do a huge disservice to each other if we just listen to each other’s problems and don’t direct each other to the Lord. When I am having my meltdown, I need someone to love me. I need someone to care. I may need somebody to just say, "You need a good night sleep."

But more than that, I need somebody to say, "Remember Christ. God has been faithful to you. Don't forget that. Remember all the times God has brought you through. Magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together."

Having given that invitation, that exhortation, David proceeds, beginning in verse 4, to tell his personal testimony. He uses his personal story, his personal experience to touch the lives of others who are in need, others who are depressed and discouraged.

As I was thinking about this passage this morning, I was thinking about this cave. They've got all kinds of issues and problems. This is not like a campout. They are running from the law. Saul is after them. The people are probably running from their creditors. They were in debt. Why did they run to David? Because they thought they could get away from their creditors.

I can imagine them sitting around the campfire at night and David strumming his guitar, his harp, and singing this psalm to these 400 men.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me 
  and delivered me from all my fears. 

"Here's what happened when I saught the Lord."

William Gurnell was a Puritan writer. He says about this verse, "God expects to hear from you before you can expect to hear from Him." "I sought the LORD, and he answered me." "If you restrain prayer, it's no wonder that the mercy promised is retained." You don't get God's answer if you don't ask Him for it. If you don't tell Him you have a need, if you don't cry out to Him, it's no wonder that you don't get His answers.

I wonder how many times we are "shaking our fists" so to speak up at the heavens and thinking, God hasn't helped me. Maybe He's sitting there thinking, You haven't asked.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me 
  and delivered me from all my fears.

Those who look to him are radiant, 
  and their faces shall never be ashamed (vv. 4–5).

That word, radiant, the King James says "lightened." It means "to sparkle, to be cheerful." Those who look to Him, they sparkle. They are cheerful. They have a cheerful countenance.

Ladies, if you look at your problems, you will have a downcast countenance if that's where you fix your gaze. Now, I'm not saying you walk through life pretending like you don't have any problems. We're not talking about a Pollyanna approach to life, where you say, “La, la, la, la, la, everything is fine. I can't pay my bills. My husband has left me, but everything's fine.” We're not talking about that. That's weirdness; that's not Christianity. Okay?

Christianity is saying “Yes, I do have these problems, but in the midst of them, I will lift my eyes up though they are filled with tears, and I will fix my gaze on Christ.”

What happens when you fix your gaze on Christ? You begin to be like Him. Second Corinthians 3 says,

We all beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord. We are transformed. We are transformed into the same image, as by the Spirit of the Lord, from glory to glory (v. 18 NASB).

You become like the things that you stare at, the one that you fix your attention on. Moses' face glowed when he got in the presence of God. You sit there forty days with God, without any television, without any email, and without any people around, and you just look at the expressions of God that He allows you to see, and your face will glow, too.

Get with the Lord. Let him transform your countenance. Those who look to Him, their faces sparkle; their countenance is cheerful; their faces shall never be ashamed. I wonder sometimes as I look around at the countenances of Christian women, sometimes as I look at my own countenance as I look in the mirror. I think we've been looking at the wrong thing. How different would we look if we really were fixing our eyes on Jesus?

You say, "How do I do that? I can't see Him." That's why we have this Book. I would ask you, in the midst of your problems, are you spending the time that you need to, getting into the Scripture, beholding Christ, beholding His glory, and letting Him change your countenance? It's not just plastering a smile on your face, it's something God does from the inside out that reflects itself ultimately in your countenance.

This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him 
  and saved him out of all his troubles (v. 6). 

This was one of my dad's very favorite verses. My dad never forgot where he was when God saved him. He never got over the wonder of the fact that God could have saved him. He loved that verse. “This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.”

When David says that he was a poor man, he knew what he was talking about. They said that in the lowest point of his life. He had to leave his dearest friend Jonathan because Jonathan’s father, King Saul, was determined to kill him. David was alone, disenfranchised, away from home, lost his job, no armor, no weapons, no way to defend himself, nothing to eat, and destitute. Finally, he moves into this cave with four hundred men who are depressed, in debt, distressed, and discontent.

That's the time when you need to make sure that you aren't turning to your own resources, but you are crying out to the Lord. This time he didn't take matters into his own hands as he had previously in the passage that set up this psalm. It's so important that we do cry out, saying, “Lord, I can't make it without you.”

A friend emailed me the other day. Both of us have been going through some challenging circumstances. She reminded me to cry out to the Lord, to ask God for help. Then she said, "I so often tell others to do that, but how often do I forget to do it myself and just start relying on my own self, my own experience, my own wisdom, my own instincts to figure this out?" David cried out. God says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

The grace of God is like an ambulance. The ambulance doesn’t turn on its siren and come racing to your house unless there's a phone call. A call that says, “We need help.” When we send that call up in heaven's direction, saying, “Lord, help! I need You. I can't handle this child. I can't handle this mate. I can't handle this boss. I don’t know what to do in this situation. This person is after me. They're slandering me. They're destroying my reputation. God, help. I don’t have the strength to get through this day and do what You've called me to do in this season of life. O Lord, I'm so lonely. I’m going to go under if You don’t come and help me. Lord, I need You.”

And God, sitting in heaven, loves to hear his children cry out and say “Help. I need You.” And like that ambulance, He comes racing to the scene of need—a grace ambulance—bringing the grace that you need at that moment to deal with that situation.

He doesn't say we won't have enemies, fears, troubles, or problems. We will. They're mentioned all throughout this psalm. It talks about all his fears, all his troubles. They are many. But in the midst of those, he cries out, and he is delivered. You say, "Well, God hasn't delivered me." Keep in mind the big picture. He's promising ultimate deliverance. This situation you're in is not forever. Keep the big picture in mind and trust God that He knows how to control the temperature—when to turn it up, when to turn it down, and when to open the door and let you out of the furnace. God will do it in His time and in His way. In the meantime, don't stop crying out to Him.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to help you reflect on the truths you've been hearing from Psalm 34. She's encouraged us to be thankful, worshiping God no matter what circumstances we're in. If David could worship while hiding in a cave, let me encourage you to turn your eyes to God as well.

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Don’t let emotions run your life. Nancy will unpack that idea tomorrow. I hope you’ll be back with us.

Now Nancy’s back with another thought.

Nancy: What is it that you're facing at this season of life, where you may have been resorting to your own methods or means to try and deal with it? But you are realizing now that you need to be crying out to God for grace. God gives grace to the humble. Who are the humble? Those who acknowledge their need. Those who say, “Help, Lord.” When's the last time you cried out to Him? Don't cry out to Him and then try to fix it yourself. Cry out to Him, and wait for the Lord to show you what to do.

You say, “I can't hang on any longer.” God knows how long you can hang on. You know what? You can hang on exactly as long as God gives you grace. And God will give you grace as long as you call you to Him. Would you, as we close this session, say, “Lord, I need you for this. This circumstance, this issue, this situation I'm facing. O Lord, I'm calling; I'm crying out to you and saying help. I can’t make it on my own.” And then by faith would you thank Him that He has heard. He knows your situation, and He will answer and deliver in His way and in His time.

Thank you Lord for these wonderful promises. Help us not to just know them in our heads but to believe them, to cling to them, and to live them out in such a way that we can glorify You. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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