Day Sixteen: Praise Challenge


I was raised and taught to communicate with respect, especially to my elders.  Even more so, to God.  I remember my mother once encouraging me to be honest with her, because she wanted our relationship to grow stronger.  She wanted me to trust her with my deepest feelings. The problem was that my feelings weren’t exactly good ones, and I didn’t know how to communicate them respectfully.

I held back for a long time, fearing the consequences of telling the truth, but one day, I decided to try this trust thing out.  I got really angry at her and, with eyes fixed like daggers at her heart, I let it rip.  I said something honest alright, but quite unacceptable.

I never saw my mother move so fast.  She jumped up out of her chair and leaped across the space between with us with an open hand.  Not to hold me, but to hit me.  That hand landed square across my mouth, and I deserved it.  What I said to her was the ugliest, most hateful and disrespectful thing one human could say to another.  And she was right to discipline me for it.

Unfortunately, the lesson my heart interpreted was this:  It’s not okay to be honest about my ugly.

To some degree in society, this remains true.  We can’t bear everything before everyone.  Hopefully there are one or two good friends you can reveal your deep, dark struggles and feelings to, but otherwise those remain tucked away and covered up with our best attempt at happy, functional human.

How does this translate, though, when it comes to our relationship with God?  I’ve met many people who carry the same lie I believed for years, that it’s not okay to bring the ugly truth before God, with the barest words of our broken souls.  We must tidy it up a bit first, present it with respectful words, if we are going to present it at all.  But mostly we just try to sing our songs and do our duty as good Christians, and give the impression that we have no issues with the big guy up above.

This can “work” for a while, but when deep pain and suffering come, those ugly feelings force their way to the surface, don’t they?  They demand to be heard, and they deserve to be.

Today’s praise challenge comes straight from a man who wrote a broken song to God. His heart accused God of rejection and abandonment…a lifetime of it.  It is a sad song, with what appears to be no hopeful note whatsoever.  He doesn’t try to rejoice.  He doesn’t soothe himself, or the listener, with the hint of promises yet to come.  His heart is angry, and he doesn’t have the strength to communicate with any reverence to God.  His life is a mess, and he is blaming God for it.

Sounds pretty harsh, even dangerous, doesn’t it?  Apparently God doesn’t think so, because He put it in the Bible!  Psalm 88 is a compelling invitation to all who question God’s goodness – not to cover up the doubt and pain and fear, but to bring it straight to Him! One man wrote about this song, “Whoever devises from the Scriptures a philosophy in which everything turns out right has to begin by tearing this page out of the volume.”

Why would God allow such a song in His book?!  Because praise doesn’t always sound like the right words, or look like the right posture.  Praise, sometimes, is as simple as the direction in which we look, and the courage to be real and honest, no matter how ugly the truth we perceive might be.  It is trusting that God is big enough to handle the accusations of our broken, bitter hearts, and giving Him the opportunity to do so.

In my deepest suffering, I’ve learned to take my heart’s truth to God, and I’ve never once been met with a striking hand, though I would have deserved it again.  I’ve always been met with the space to be honest, and the gentleness of a love bigger than I can comprehend.

God is not interested in us being “good” or “right.”  He is interested in us being ourselves. We are invited to come as we are, not as we think He wants us to be.  This is the place where real praise begins.

So the challenge for today is this: to bring your broken, angry songs before God, daring to trust that He will receive them with tenderness, not wrath.  And in that place – the place where we don’t see God doing anything good, yet still we choose to bring our truth before Him, we will begin to experience love that is authentic.

And isn’t that what this whole journey is about?  That we might be able to love and be loved by God, and love each other, with a love that isn’t dependent on anything we say or do?  That is what the cross exists to prove: that God loves us, at our worst, and that even when His goodness isn’t visible, it becomes so as we step deeper into real relationship with Him.

Your invitation is waiting….

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