THE Psalmist wrote, ``Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord.''1 His statement suggests that one need not wait for an appropriate religious occasion to praise God. One need not wait for a surprisingly good turn of events in order to offer thanks. When it comes to praising God, there's no limitation. The Psalmist is urging us to make gratitude a constant companion rather than an occasional visitor. Honoring God is to be the purpose and essence of our being. In another psalm we read, ``I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.''2
Many people would agree that gratefully worshiping God is a worthy thing to do. But how are we to praise God when we constantly feel behind in meeting daily demands? How are we to praise God when we are struggling with sadness, illness, or injustice?
There is no simple answer to this question, but we do have in the Bible a record of people who expressed deep gratitude to God even when their situation would not seem to warrant faithful praise.
An account that frequently stirs me to praise God is found in the book of Acts. Here we read of the Apostle Paul's healing a woman of mental illness. Instead of being thanked, Paul, along with Silas, was accused of teaching customs antagonistic to Roman law. As a result, the authorities had Paul and Silas whipped and thrown into prison. Their feet were placed in stocks so that they could not move.
In the midst of this injustice, pain, and darkness, they ``prayed, and sang praises unto God.''3 Clearly there was nothing in the circumstance they were facing to call forth such an upwelling of gratitude to God. They must have been conscious of something more than their physical situation. Apparently they discerned that the love of God was unstoppable and thatthe discouraging circumstances were notto be accepted as final.
To me, this prayer of praise was a powerful acknowledgment that God, not mortal man or mortal circumstance, governed their lives. Understanding something of God's constant presence and provision, they could do no less than cherish and honor Him, even when they appeared to be outside divine control. And this loyalty to the one, sovereign, omnipresent God brought release from prison.
But are we really expected to follow such a faithful example? Yes we are, though our efforts to praise and trust God under all circumstances may at first be small and modest. Let's begin today. We can take time out, right now, to thank God for His blessings, large and small. And we can practice praising God for His goodness and control even when we feel besieged by challenges.
I was challenged recently with a painful fever. After praying for some time to be free of this condition, I realized that I was constantly conversing with the body instead of with God. I wasn't making much progress. But then a simple thought came to me in these words: ``You can at least be grateful.''
Just then my wife came in the room to see if she could be of any assistance to me.I asked if she would sing some hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal. Soon the room was alive with words of gratitude and praise for God's goodness. Several phrases from the hymns arrested my thoughts. One hymn said, ``Our God is Love, unchanging Love,/And can we ask for more?''4 I said to myself, ``No, I cannot ask for more. God's love is here, and is totally governing me.'' And this statement, from a hymn with words by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, brought great comfort: ``'Tis the Spirit thatmakes pure,/That exalts thee, and will cure/All thy sorrow and sickness and sin.''5
As I drank in these hymns, my outlook began changing from complaint to gratitude. The fever remained a while longer, yet I felt peaceful and confident that my God-given spiritual freedom would soon be evident. I felt God's tender care for me, and I recognized that I could praise Him even in the midst of a stiff challenge. Before long the fever broke. I was released from the prison of sickness and filled with praise for God's goodness. I caught a glimpse of why the Psalmist said, ``Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord.''
1Psalms 150:6. 2Psalms 104:33. 3Acts 16:25. 4Hymnal, No. 269. 5Ibid., No. 298. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! Psalms 107:8