Messy Praise

We speak our words of praise in a world that is hellish; we sing out songs of victory in a world where things get messy; we live our joy among people who neither understand nor encourage us. But the content of our lives is God, not humanity. We are not scavenging in the dark alleys of the world, poking in its garbage cans for bare subsistence. We’re traveling in the light toward God who is rich in mercy and strong to save.
— Eugene Peterson

Life Is Hellish

I’ve been in therapy for months now. Month after month after month I dredge up pain. Therapy has a way of centering your words, cutting out the casual and reaching the point of it all.

Trauma has visited my doorstep many times and waltzed through my life in an effortless dance of destruction. I am, at best, overwhelmed by it.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a verbal tic that I use when I feel overwhelmed. I say some version of “it will be okay.” It can be used for anything from confronting a death to public speaking. I lament and then say “it’ll be okay.”

And without fail, my ever patient therapist then reminds me that I shouldn’t lie to myself. It might not be okay.

  

It Might Not Be Okay

And, you know, she’s right.

It might not be okay.

I may never be fully healed from my trauma.

I may never get the things that I desire: marriage, children, a home, a new car, a tiny waist line….

I may fail, fall, and forget truth.

It might not be okay.

 

Praise

Gritting my teeth and powering through hard things feels more natural than stopping to recognize God in the hellishness and brokenness of my life. It feels more natural to focus on “okay” than recognizing God’s plan in my limited perspective and misplaced desires.   

Traveling through this Lenten season has shown me how lost I am in my praise. Somewhere along the line my praise has shifted from admiration of my creator to a tepid response to God when He seems to abide by my rules. My misplaced praise has placed me in the center of the Lenten story instead of as a participant in it.  

Gradually through these long years, I accepted the lie that my life must be pretty and perfect to warrant praise to the Creator of it. In order to praise, I need my life and my circumstances to be “okay."

Truth is we are going to have some really good days and we are going to have some really awful days. The brokenness of the Garden is the same brokenness that is in our lives. But the same God that walked with them in the Garden, walks with us today. He is with us in the chaos and the pain and the danger. He is with us in the stillness of the night when sleep is illusive. He is in the questions and the loss.

Not only is he with us, but he is for us. He is on our side.

Our victory is sure.

Christians are not fussy moralists who cluck their tongues over a world going to hell; Christians are people who praise the God who is on our side. Christians are not pious pretenders in the midst of a decadent culture; Christians are a robust witnesses to the God who is our help. Christians are not fatigued outcasts who carry righteousness as a burden in a world where wicked flourish; Christians are people who sing, “Oh, blessed be God! He didn’t abandon us defenseless.”
— Eugene Peterson

I know that God is for me. I know this because sometimes things are not okay. Some things will never be okay in this lifetime. But, still, He is there. He didn’t abandon me. He is my ever present help.  

Praise God who walked with me through my dad’s health struggles. Oh, blessed be God!

Praise God who walked me through his death. Oh, blessed be God!

Praise God who walked me through the loneliness and shame of being single in my 30's. Oh, blessed be God!

Praise God who gave me a different perspective of singleness. Oh, blessed be God!

Praise God for the friends he gave me in the darkness. Oh, blessed be God!

Praise God for the family he gave me through the fire. Oh, blessed be God!

Praise God for being with me when things weren’t okay. Oh, blessed be God!

Praise God for being with me in the not-okay-ness of today. Oh, blessed be God!

Praise God who is my fortress, my helper, and my salvation. Oh, blessed be God!

My prayer this Lent is that praise may ring from my mouth more than hollow promises.  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be less concerned with being okay and more reverent of the God that is with me in all my days and all my ways.

Oh, blessed be God!

 

Answer these Questions:

How did I worship God this week?

How did I rebel against God this week?

In what ways will I commit to seeking His Kingdom purposes in this coming week?