No matter how far down we are, we can praise God. Praise refocuses us toward the ever-present source of genuine good. In whatever situation we find ourselves, praise lifts our spirits, adjusts our attitudes, and brings possibilities to light that we might have ignored or not seen.
I was reminded of this while watching the current blockbuster movie, "The Pursuit of Happyness" (yes, the misspelling is intentional). That the movie is based on fact is inspiring. The main character – played masterly by Will Smith – encounters a series of setbacks that would have driven most men to despair.
At the lowest point, when he and his preschool-age son are alternating between spending their nights in a men's shelter – or worse, when the shelter is full, in the men's room in a San Francisco subway station – he and his son attend a church service. The singing is radiant, and the main character stands with the congregation, drinking in the praise to God.
As I recall, this is where things begin to improve, and by the time the final credits are rolling, we know the main character has a job, bringing prosperity and "happyness" to him and to his son.
Because of the church scene, this movie points to me the importance of recognizing God's free gift to His beloved children – of grace, of joy, safety, and His precious love. The Bible urges us to this point of view of praise. One psalm begins, "How good it is to sing psalms to our God! How pleasant and right to praise him! ... It is he who heals the broken in spirit and binds up their wounds" (147:1, 3, Revised English Bible). This healing of the broken in spirit is a promise extended to all of us.
Many years ago I left a good job to go back to university for retraining, and thought it would be fairly easy to pick up evening and part-time work to sustain our family. I was wrong. Our income fell like a rock. Creditors began to hound me on the phone, and then came to the door to demand our credit cards. I had bills of several hundred dollars that were due, and only $32.18 in hand. Things were very grim.
More earnestly than ever before, I turned to God. I prayed. I asked God to show me more of His goodness, to help me in my distress. I was able to see, in my prayers, the magnificent allness of God. I became more convinced that God was sustaining me, and that He was all good. I was able to thank God for His ever-present Love. I was praising Him.
The next day the phone rang, and I was offered a job. I hadn't applied to the company and didn't even know it existed, but the skills they needed were the skills I had. I started work right away and was with that company for several years, making a contribution to their business activities and receiving a good salary. But what's most important to me was learning the immediacy of divine help.
Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy, whose writings offer me much comfort, wrote, "Never ask for to-morrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," p. 307).
The "never doubting" comes, I think, as a natural result of our praising God. How can we doubt when we have the certain sense that God, the only power of the universe, loves us? All of us are included in this divine Love, and praise is the door that lets this Love into our lives.
Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust:
cause me to know the way
wherein I should walk;
for I lift up my soul unto thee.