Apart from Him we can do nothing

Praising God In The Storm

Black and white photo of hand catching a large raindrop, because we need to learn to be praising God in the storm.

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I try my best to live a life praising God even throughout what is presumed to be the bad things in life; praising God in the storm. Let me tell you why.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

I read a simple little book called Prison to Praise by Merlin Carothers back sometime in the 1990s. It has stuck with me, but it also has been one of the hardest things for me to explain until some recent experiences which I will share later in this post.

It can be hard to explain why we should be praising God in the storm. Once I was telling a friend about it and he said, “You’re just talking about having a positive attitude”.  After thinking about this I told him that it sort of is, but it is having a positive attitude towards God which is so much more than just wishful thinking that everything will turn out ok.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that we can praise God for everything as if He caused it to happen.  If someone was abused in some fashion, then obviously God doesn’t approve of that in any way.  God gives us free will, and sometimes a person misuses that free will which leads to abuse, even taking advantage of another person emotionally, psychologically, sexually, or a number of other ways.  The Bible is clear that God labels any action that hurts or takes advantage of someone as an abomination, especially a powerful person taking advantage of a weaker person or a child. It is not acceptable (Luke 17:1-2).

So, this is not about praising God for bad things because that doesn’t make sense, however praising God in the storm may lead to freedom from the hurt that follows those bad experiences.  God wants to help us, but if we reject God when something bad happens, then we may be creating an obstacle to receiving that help.  However, when we reach out to Him during these times and we trust Him to help, then God is faithful to help. When we trust God fully, then we can always praise Him.  Having a positive attitude towards God is showing an attitude of praise.

The Power of Praise

Once I even felt that I needed to share the power of praise at a hospital visit.  A friend called me one night over 10 years ago and asked me to come to Childrens hospital to pray with him for his son who was having so many seizures, his breathing and heartbeat were impacted. This friend was told that his son might not be able to survive.

I went to the hospital and when I saw my friend, I could see in his face that the circumstances had taken a great toll on him and after hearing what was going on, the circumstances seemed close to hopeless, so it is not a wonder he was hurting so badly.  And the poor child couldn’t function because of constant seizures.  His mom wouldn’t leave his side, she was such a devoted mother.

As I prayed with my friend, the thought came to me to talk to him about praising God.  I sheepishly mentioned that to him and tried to explain why.  I didn’t have the book with me at the time and I can’t remember what I said, but I think the Holy Spirit gave me the right words for my friend which may have been even better than quoting from a book, but now looking back I would have shared this from Carothers book; “To praise God is to express our acceptance of something that God is permitting to happen. So, to praise God for difficult situations, as sickness or disaster, means literally that we accept it’s happening, as part of God’s plan to reveal His perfect love for us.”

My friend went back to the room with his wife and talked to her about praising God even in this situation.  They began to do that.  In the end of this hospital stay the doctors operated to disconnect one side of their son’s brain, which saved his life, however it’s what followed that is the real story.  The child was now crippled, but showed such great faith and love for God that it led their whole family closer to God through him, not to say that they weren’t already, but their faith just grew that much stronger.

This was a long time ago and the child still struggles to this day with seizures, but thanks be to God and the power of praise, he continues to persevere through it all. What a great reminder that when we request help from God, scripture tells us to do so with thankfulness (Philippians 4:4-7).

Love Jesus More

A little over a year ago I started asking Jesus to help me to love Him more and more every day. I prayed that prayer every night for months.

I am always amazed that God hears and answers prayers because the Bible reminds me that I am not worthy (Hebrews 2:6). It is so amazing because we are not worthy, but because of Jesus, we can ask in His name, and God will answer.

However, be careful what you ask for, because shortly after I was asking Jesus to help me love Him more, I was laid off from employment and over the past year, I have had problems with my house, then found out the nearby dam is leaking so the lake will remain lowered for years to come.

Over the past 6 months or so, I have been diagnosed with health issues; both skin and prostate cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes. But to my surprise, all these things have helped me in some way to love Jesus more, and I think it affirms that God can truly take everything and work it for some kind of good in the life of a believer (Romans 8:28).

God is good, so that just makes sense, doesn’t it? Not everything we experience is good. God can redeem our pain, to His glory, if we let Him.

True Discipline From Our Heavenly Father

In my faith tradition, we say that “God is good all the time”, but I am not sure we mean it if at bad times we lose trust in God or feel God has abandoned us somehow.

I see the loss of my job and the potential loss of value of property as a discipline for my allowing these things to make me feel secure.  God showed me that my security comes from Him, so I was missing the mark thinking a good income and good investments were my security.

These are hardships. We’re not talking about evil committed against us here. But things that we see as troubles in this life. Praising God in the storm sometimes requires us to understand some hardships as God’s discipline (Hebrews 12:5-11).

As I praised God throughout these things that have happened over this past 12 months, I began to realize this was a discipline that I needed in order to really love Jesus more and as a result each day I trusted God more in these things.  This is why I think that these “bad” things all turned out for good overall making me better in some way.

God is Second to None

And so, I tried to sincerely praise God through all things happening and although I complained about the discomfort from each of these experiences, especially the prostate procedures, I can say I began to see these circumstances as a benefit in many ways; taking away my arrogance and replace it with humility.  As I saw this, I began to praise God even more and trusted Him to take care of everything without being concerned how it will turn out.

I think it may be impossible to do this unless we see ourselves as second to God in every way.  Many people see themselves as the center of their universe. I am not talking about the prima-donnas we all have seen who think the whole world revolves around them, but rather those of us who think of ourselves first in our own lives.

As a result of this way of thinking, if something is wrong with our lives or something bad happens, then the effects are beyond reproach because it is adversely affecting our perfect life.  However, if a person is under God, then they realize when something bad happens to them, they are still a part of something much more important than themselves – their connection to God is really the only thing that can be considered beyond reproach.

Sacrifice of Praise

So, if we can praise God through any circumstance, good or bad, then we are really prepared for any outcome, even the rare case it would lead to death, because we have turned it over to God and we really do trust it will work out for the best, regardless (Hebrews 13:15-16).

To me, it is obvious that praising God through ALL things, especially bad, could be considered a “sacrifice of praise”, no longer treating God as our genie who is there to meet our demands, but rather trusting God fully and offering up praise continually.

Praise and worship are in fact the only thing we have that God would consider useful.  I mean what gift do you give to an all-powerful God who created all and already has everything? The only thing He desires from us is love and praise from a person freely giving that love and praise to Him. Not conditionally, but freely giving love and praise through prayer and worship.

Too many people think they can offer God something in return for His favor in a circumstance… like to say, “God if you get me through this thing, I will go to church every Sunday”.  This type of thinking is simply wrong… quoting again from Prison to Praise, Carothers says: “We have nothing to give Him; we have only to receive of Him! so He allows circumstances and incidents which will bring our wrong attitudes to our attention. I have come to believe that the prayer of praise is the highest form of communion with God, and one that always releases a great deal of power into our lives.”

So, to praise God in bad circumstances may be a “sacrifice of praise” and I do believe it pleases God greatly.  It shows great trust in God, and I want to encourage us all to do just that; show our trust by praising God in the storm.  At first, we’ll probably have to force out praise but eventually it will become second nature, which will lead to truly being more Christ-like and seeing as well as understanding God’s perspective in life.  After all, I do believe that sacrificial praise and love for God is what it takes to show the spirit of Christ in our lives.

“Not only does God save, He means business when He says He can remold us and make us into His image. He can literally take away our old habits and hang-ups and impure thoughts and renew us from within!” ― Merlin R. Carothers, Prison To Praise

More Bible verses about praising God in the storm:

Deuteronomy 31:6; 1 Chronicles 16:11; Psalm 42:5; Isaiah 43:2; Philippians 4:19; James 1:2-3; Revelation 21:4

All Biblical reference links courtesy of Bible Gateway, a searchable online Bible tool hosting more than 200 versions of the Bible in over 70 languages.

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