“A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” (Psalms 103:1)
It’s easy to sing praises when you’ve just experienced a great moment of spiritual triumph. Maybe you’ve just received that blessing you’ve been praying for. Or maybe the Lord has just revealed His will to you in a situation that leaves no doubt in your heart as to His plan in your life. Perhaps the cancer is in remission, or you’ve just witnessed the birth of a child. It’s easy to give thanks for the precious moments we share with loved ones. It’s easy to glorify God when we’re surrounded by fellow saints. When doors are open and the sailing is smooth, when we’re high on a mountain above every trial, worry, and care; it is easy to bless the Lord. In fact, it is difficult not to have a praise in your heart, a blessing in your soul.
But what about the burdensome experiences? It is hard to see a reason to thank the Lord, let alone bless Him, when all we see is defeat. When we’ve fallen on our face and the world begins to mock us, it is difficult to know how to praise God. Your prayers sound like empty words, not reaching past the ceiling. Your life is categorized by failure, fears, and frustration. Doubt and worry tend to linger in your every action and thought. The test results are disturbing; the doctor says there’s nothing else he can do; you’ve lost your job and the rent is due. There does not appear to be any reason for thanksgiving, no cause for praise, no song of rejoicing.
It is important that we know God is not a merchant. He does not wheel-and-deal with us over His Glory. He does not pamper us so that we will praise Him. He does not bless us so that we will bless Him. It is true that we should meet His goodness with thanksgiving and praise. Indeed, our soul should stir us to “bless his holy name” when we’ve experienced a touch of the Master’s hand. But we also need to realize that we were created for God’s Glory (Isaiah 43:7) and His pleasure (Revelation 4:11). Glory is “due” unto Him (Psalms 29:2). This means that we owe God praise – we have a praise debt to the Lord of all creation. This debt is outstanding; regardless of any further blessings we may experience, we still owe God glory.
So how do we find it in our heart to bless the Lord when we don’t feel like blessing Him? We think about the goodness that God has already shown to us in giving us the breath of life. We meditate on the promises He has given to us – to never leave us nor forsake us. We remember that we were dead in trespasses and sin until He manifested His love to us by dying so that we may live in Him. We realize that He’s already given His very best to us in spite of our complete lack of worth. We know that all things, even hardships, work together in the Sovereign Plan of God for good toward us, because we love God and are called according to His purpose. We encourage ourselves in the Lord, even in the hard times.
An amazing thing begins to happen when we do these things. Where we previously did not see a cause of rejoicing, we now have sufficient and abundant reasons to be thankful. We see that we truly are blessed and we begin to thank the Lord for all our blessings. We begin to pay on our praise debt and our burdens seem lighter. Our hearts are lifted up from the dunghill of despair and we are given a song of adoration unto the Lord Jesus Christ. We see that our blessedness is a state of being in which the Lord has placed us and that this blessedness is perfect, not being determined by circumstances or feelings. We see that we have been given peace in the midst of a storm.
How do we overcome despair? Bless the Lord.
How do we conquer discouragement? Bless the Lord.
How do we rise above our circumstances and find it in ourselves to praise the Lord? Bless the Lord with all that is within you. Open your heart and let praises flow unto Him. Give Him that which is due unto Him and you will find that you can echo Job at the depths of his misery:
“…the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).