A couple weeks ago I received two beautiful books as a gift. Sheltering Mercy and Endless Grace by Ryan Whitaker Smith and Dan Wilt. These are poetic responses to the Psalms, from a Christ-centric point of view. The work itself is beautiful–highly recommened. But it was actually the introduction of Sheltering Mercy that got me thinking.

In the introduction, the authors make a statement. They say that ALL the Psalms are praise.

Now, if you’re like me, you’ve tended to put the Psalms into different categories–some are praise, some are lament, some are a cry for help. When we think of praise, we think of joyful singing (even when it’s a sacrifice). And we all know that some of the psalms are full of complaints. Full of at-my-wit’s-end. Full of despair.

Is that praise?

The authors call this “the praise of the forgotten. The destitute. the fearful. The guilty.” They go on to say that we serve the God of the distraught, not just the God of the joyful.

And that settled deep in my spirit and stayed with me, especially as I was reading a novel in which the young heroine kept crying out, “Are you there, God?” I’ll admit that her constant refrain was driving me crazy in the story because she had just heard His voice. But as my reading friends reminded me (we’re reading this one together in a sub-group of my Patrons & Peers), don’t we all do that? We turn so quickly from assurance to doubt. So quickly from joy to despair.

You know what? He’s still our God.

When we’re in those positions–as we all are at some point in our lives–our praise is simply acknowledging that God is the only one who can help. We are praising Him with our despair. With our desperation. With our lack…by offering it to Him.

Even the very question of that fictional heroine who was frustrating me–are you there, God?–is, in fact, an act of faith. If we didn’t believe it on some level, we wouldn’t ask.

You’re never going to hear me crying out, “Are you there, Easter Bunny? Can you help?”

No. Even when we’re upset, when we can’t see the goodness, when we don’t understand why things have happened, when we’re angry at God, when we can’t forgive Him for the things that have happened, when we just don’t have energy for faith, when we’re so overburdened by loss or grief or pain or numbness, depression or anxiety or exhaustion or sickness…we know to whom to cry. Even if it’s in anger. Even if it’s in despondence. Even if it’s in despair.

I’d never before paused to consider that lesson that Psalms give us–that it’s not only okay to cry to God with all of that…THAT IS FAITH. Pouring out all our complaints…THAT IS FAITH. Questioning God like we’d question our own family–“Are you even listening to me??”–THAT IS FAITH.

Because that is saying, “I don’t even know who you are right now–but I know THAT you are, and I know you’re supposed to be the one to help me.” It’s saying, “I can’t take any more, so I’m trusting you to take it for me.” It’s saying, “I feel like you’re ignoring me, Lord–but I’m still calling you Lord.”

That’s what David did. What the other psalmists did. And those examples have been preserved for us because we NEED TO KNOW that praise isn’t all joy. Praise isn’t all happiness. Praise isn’t all worshiping on the mountaintop.

Praise is crying out from the pits of despair. Praise is shouting in rage. Praise is curling up in a ball and begging Him to make it go away. Praise is acknowledging that we just don’t understand.

Now, this isn’t the part of faith or praise we want to be in. It’s not the part we strive for. But we’ll pass through it–all of us, at some point or another. And it’s important that we remember these parts of our journey toward the Father, through the Son, with the Spirit are good. They will deliver us to the other side. They teach us that faith, in those times, is crying out, not going silent. As long as we’re still communicating, then we’re still clinging.

I hope and pray that you’re in a mountaintop season. That your praise is joyful. But maybe you’re not–and it’s not. Maybe you’re struggling right now, in one way or another. Maybe you feel the comfort of the Lord through it all, or maybe you’re angry with Him, can’t sense Him, or feel like He’s abandoned you. Maybe you feel like God has gone silent or is far away–even though you know the words that say otherwise.

Knowing isn’t feeling.

David knew. David knew God was not far off. But he still cried out and asked, “How long are you going to make me wait, God?”

Cry out. Shout. Sing. Scream. Cry out to God with those doubts, with that anger, with that despair. Offer it to Him.

And that will be your praise. That will be your worship. And it will be enough.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email