The holidays are over. Times with family and friends celebrating the birth of Christ and the New Year are done for another year. There are so many good memories and many of us are filled with the incredible blessings we have received. However, the holidays can bring unspoken pain too.
In my family the holidays come with mixed blessings. We had a wonderful two weeks with our two granddaughters. We spent time with extended family many of those days. We were abundantly blessed during this time. We played games, had sleepovers, did all types of crafts, baking and had lots of meals together. If you were looking at our family gathering it would appear to be the perfect family.
However, you’d be wrong. This is not easy to share because it is so close to home. It exposes my disappointment, loss, frustration, anger, embarrassment, and lots of questions. We have not heard from one of our family members for two years. Some days the loss is incredibly painful. Crying out to God seems to bring no answers.
This is not news to many who face heartbreak on a daily basis, but it is always harder during the holidays and special celebrations. Whether it is death, divorce, separation across the miles, broken relationships, or health issues, the loss people face in life can be especially difficult during these events. Trying to remain upbeat, filled with joy, hopeful especially during the holidays can be overwhelming.
This year I was very grateful for the blessings of distractions with the remainder of my family, but always in the background is the thought, “Will we finally hear, or better yet, see?”
Pain can be crippling both physically and emotionally, but it can also be paralyzing spiritually. Through experience I have learned that there have been times when I have been so frustrated with this broken relationship that I have pulled away from and ignored God. Last year God filled me with a verse from Psalm 62:5 that I have had on my bathroom mirror for over a year …
When I see that verse I am reminded that my hope is not in the broken relationship, but in the Healer of the broken.
This season when I was struggling to stay focused a devotional caught my attention when it reminded me “God inhabits the praises of His people.” It got me thinking that when I am not living fully in the presence of God and under His authority I miss the ability to glorify God. Instead of looking UP to God, I end up looking in at myself.
Roger Bennett wrote, during 11 years of increasingly difficult health issues, “I am convinced that our enemy [the Devil] stalks us exactly in the way the Bible describes him, a roaring lion. He hides in the bushes waiting for any sign of weakness and then he strikes.” Bennett describes how he felt the Devil had struck even lower than his health issues; he attacked Bennett’s joy, confidence and hope. Bennett was filled with doubt. Then he focused on stories from the Bible – Paul and Silas were in jail – “they didn’t despair; they sang … it became their weapon.” Bennett began singing “one song after another came to my memory, and I sang them to my empty room … It may have been the most powerful blessing I’ve received in my life.” He realized just how true God is to His Word.
God really does inhabit the praises of His people. So when I am struggling with the losses and difficulties in my life, the last thing I feel like is singing. But I have been turning on that praise music, personally I am blessed with the depth of the words from the old hymns, but there are some newer songs that fill me with encouragement and hope. Blessings, 10,000 Reasons, In Christ Alone, Wonderful, Merciful Savior…
Reading a devotional from In Touch magazine, the author encourages us to be careful with our motive for praise.
Praise both magnifies and pleases the Lord, but we actually benefit from the practice as well. First, adoration of God modifies our estimation of “self”—it’s impossible to truly elevate God while clinging to pride. Instead, we come to recognize our sin, weakness, and dependence upon Him. As Scripture tells us, the Lord’s power is manifest when we show genuine humility (2 Cor. 12:10).
Next, praise appropriately humbles us, as it is a reminder of God’s greatness and our dependence upon Him. But at the same time, exalting Him strengthens our sense of assurance, thereby increasing our faith. Then we are able to look beyond ourselves and our circumstances to see life from God’s perspective. And consider one additional benefit of praise that involves our physical bodies: when we focus on Jesus’ goodness, tension leaves and we find new strength. All these supernatural effects of exaltation are possible because as we lift His name, God is present—Psalm 22:3 tells us that He inhabits the praise of His people (KJV).
I made a resolution for 2015 to see more of the blessings in my life and not dwell on the losses and difficulties. When I focus on the difficulties, I give the devil a foothold to fill me with doubt and fear. However, when I focus on the blessings in my life and around me, I am filled with joy and hope. I will be challenged to see more of the blessings by lifting my voice in praise to God and exalting Him. This doesn’t mean I won’t be afraid to pour out my heart to God with my concerns, for His word reminds us He wants to know our hearts, he knows everything about our lives. But I am convicted this year to remember – “God inhabits the praises of His people.” Psalm 22:3. (Now to go write that on my mirror …)
May God fill you with His abundant blessings ~ Faye