When Worship and Praise is Shelved


Can Christians be honest in admitting that praise is absent?

Chris Tomlin sings a song that has grabbed the core of my heart. While the lyrics of “I Lift My Hands” speak of God’s love, mercy, & faithfulness, it is a repeated refrain within the song that seizes me. It’s not the talk of God as our strength or refuge or healer—which can be found in the song—but this:

I lift my hands to believe again.

What? Believe again? Could it possibly mean that we once believed and now –DOUBT? Did we once lift our hands in worship and glorious praise only to now stand with wilted head and dangling hands in our pain, doubt and disbelief?

Psalm 42, whether written by David or some other appointed author, echoes the honest cry of someone who was intimately familiar with a sovereign God. The Psalmist begins with what appears to be a great Psalm of adoring praise to God, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God.” But this isn’t a prayer of praise. It is a cry of desperation. This is not, NOT a Psalm of joyful worship.

God is absent in his life. God is—at the very least—allowing a tremendous amount of pain in the author’s life. This isn’t the prayer of a joyous follower of God shouting out the celebrated attributes of God. Instead, it’s the agonizing tearful (vs. 3) howl of a man in agony. This is a man who can remember the seasons of the thrill of worship with other followers of God (vs. 4) but who now is only filled with despair (vs. 5).

In this Psalm, twice, we read these words “Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him.” He pens these words in verse 5 and again in verse 11. Yet, he is not done. He repeats it again in verse 5 of Psalm 43.

What do the words “I shall AGAIN praise Him” tell us? One thing it tells us is that we endure periods of life where praise is absent. There are seasons when we can’t lift our hands in worship. There are days, weeks, months and even years when the presence and glory of God is unfelt, unseen, unfindable.

This is one reason why the Chris Tomlin song resonates with so many—it gives those of us dwelling in the midst of such agonizing periods of life, hope. We find comfort knowing genuine seekers of God, yes faithful Christians, experience long bouts of agonizing distance from God. Thankfully, Psalm 42 is a God-inspired passage affirming the need to speak honestly even when our pain results in periods of worship-less existence.

For those who don’t know this depth of pain—at least not yet—they must grasp how Psalm 42 is a loud affirmation of the need for us to empathetically come along side our sisters and brothers in Christ whose pain has stolen the ability to offer any form of open worship.

Whether it is “me” or “thee” may the words of Psalm 42 be ours: I SHALL again praise Him.

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You may follow Jack on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jackwbruce

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