Be at rest once again, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you…
How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.
I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people.
--Psalm 116:7, 12-14
I was looking back through one of my journals from thirteen years ago and read an entry about a long-forgotten incident. In 2008, my husband had a concerning episode where he became excessively weak and light-headed at work and started passing large amounts of blood. His blood pressure was quite high, he had an excruciating headache, and was vomiting. I picked him up immediately and drove him to a medical facility where many tests were run, none of which resulted in definitive answers. Eventually he was sent home on antibiotics, with the assumption that he was dealing with some type of infection resulting from a kidney stone several weeks prior. Over the course of the next few days, things settled down and he gradually improved; but it was a scary and unsettling experience for both of us. Adding to the stress, I had just come through an exhausting period of ministry and travel and felt utterly drained. This is an excerpt of what I wrote following that episode:
“Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me, and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God.” Ps. 50:23, KJV
“But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors Me. If you keep to My path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.” Ps. 50:23, NLT
Giving thanks and praise to God honors Him. It’s called an offering, or sacrifice; and sometimes it really does seem like a sacrifice to give thanks and praise. Not because I’m in the midst of a deep, dark trial; but I think sometimes it’s harder to rise above the mundane daily weariness and discouragement and be thankful. I want to live on that higher plane that glorifies God, and to order my steps and my conversation according to righteousness.
In my last blog, I talked about how gratitude is one way of “gathering the jars” of faith and expectation (see Gathering the Jars). We hear so much about the benefits of gratitude; but why does it sometimes seem so hard? In both the devastating crises of life and the daily mundane trials, a sense of gratitude can be elusive. The Psalmist knows this, which is why he says in Psalm 50 that “giving thanks is a sacrifice” (emphasis mine) that truly honors God. The writer of Hebrews confirms this viewpoint: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise…”
Psalm 116 (above) talks about “repaying” the Lord for His goodness by “lifting up the cup of salvation” and calling on the name of the Lord. Commentators tell us that the “cup” referred to here is the “cup of thanksgiving” that was offered up to the Lord during the sacrificial offerings at the Temple. In the face of the vivid reminder of sin, in the moment of awful solemnity and humility, hands were raised to lift up a cup that represented gratitude and thanks.
It is a sacrifice…
…to praise God for His mercy and goodness even as tears stream down your face.
…to choose to sing a song of praise even when your heart feels heavy.
…to recount aloud a list of His gifts and His graces when weariness and discouragement tempt you to pull the covers back over your head.
…to fill your conversation with faith- and hope-filled words when the flesh desires to vent negativity.
No matter the hardship or trial, all of us have reason to thank God; if for no other reason than that He fills our very lungs with air and gives us the grace to rise each new day. Most importantly of all, He has purchased our redemption on the cross and given us an eternal hope! Although we could never repay Him for all He has done, let’s seek to give Him the “repayment” He desires…
The sacrifice of praise.
“The Lord is a hard taskmaster, telling me to rejoice
and sing a praise-psalm when things oppress…
‘As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather…
So is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart.’ (Proverbs 25:20)…
‘Sympathize,’ I cry, and He peels off my overcoat of self-pity by saying,
‘Praise, child, and be warmed within!’”
--Jim Elliott, “The Shadow of the Almighty”