“I feel as if I can never cease praising God. Come and rejoice with me over His goodness.” The words keep echoing in my mind. Really, in my heart. They’re the introduction to a paraphrase of Psalm 34 that is, in a sense, our family Psalm. More on that to come.
“Really? Praising God? Now? In the midst of this mess? As I sit by this hospital bed? After I’ve just buried my husband? When I am so desperately concerned about my child’s special needs? While it seems I’m always waiting for a doctor to call back about the next diagnosis/surgery/meds? When my marriage is struggling so? Rejoice? Really?” These are the other words that echo in my head—and heart. They’re not necessarily spoken words. But I see them on strained faces and hear them in worried voices and watch them in weary walks. When I am at Mom to Mom. When I visit with my neighbors. When I answer the phone. I hear them.
It’s these voices, actually, that make me love Psalm 34. I originally loved it as my Nana’s favorite Psalm. It is inscribed on her tombstone. Then I came to love it at deeper levels at the time when my father-in-law was dying by inches over a nine-week period at the age of 52. During those long weeks, my mother-in-law drove into that Chicago hospital every day and sat by his bed. They read this paraphrase of Psalm 34 together nearly every day. I often mention Psalm 34 in my teaching and writing. I often pray this Psalm in dark hours of the night. But in this chapter of my life—and in this month of giving thanks—it means more than ever. For me, it defines gutsy gratitude:
Paraphrase of Psalm 34 (from Psalms Now—Leslie F. Brandt)
I feel at times as if I could never cease praising God.
Come and rejoice with me over His goodness!
I reached for Him out of my inner conflicts, and He was there to give me strength and courage.
I wept in utter frustration over my troubles, and He was near to help and support me.
What He has done for me he can do for you.
Turn to Him; He will not turn away from you.
His loving presence encompasses those who yield to Him.
He is with them even in the midst of their troubles and conflicts.
He meets their emptiness with His abundance and shores up their weakness with His divine power.
Listen to me; I know whereof I speak.
I have learned through experience that this is the way to happiness.
God is ever alert to the cries of His children; He feels and bears with them their pains and problems.
He is very near to those who suffer
And reaches out to help those who are battered down with despair.
Even the children of God must experience affliction,
But they have a loving God who will keep them and watch over them.
The godless suffer in loneliness and without hope;
The servant of God finds meaning and purpose even in the midst of his suffering and conflict.
“I reached . . . He gave. I wept . . . He was near to help and support. His loving presence wraps around us. He meets [my] emptiness with His abundance and shores up [my] weakness with His divine power. He is ever alert . . . He is very near . . . He reaches out to help.” These are the reasons—at least a few of them—that we can say the opening lines with integrity. These are the foundation of gutsy gratitude. These are the reasons we can say thank you even when it takes extraordinary courage to hang on to His truth amidst our current realities. Even in the midst of . . . Even “if He does not . . .” (see Daniel 3:18) Even after . . .
These were the words of the ancient Psalmist (probably David, in a time of great trouble). This was the testimony of my grandmother. These were the words that sustained my husband Woody’s parents through a long dark passage. These are the words I live by. This is the truth about our great God. These truths are the reason the Apostle Paul could command us to give thanks in everything. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Wherever you are in your life, whatever your journey in this November 2016, whatever courage it may take to praise God, even though _______, I do hope these good words from our God will invade your soul and ignite within you a gutsy gratitude. A joyful outpouring of thanks that only He can give. For this I pray—for you, for me, for all of us. Because, as Ann Voskamp says “Our worlds reel unless we rejoice. A song of thanks steadies everything.” (The Greatest Gift, p. 190)