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March 16, 2023

Moving From Lament to Praise

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All of life follows a rhythm. We move from sorrow to joy and from joy to sorrow and back again. As I’ve said, the Psalms tend to mirror our hearts just as they mirrored the hearts of God’s people at the time of their writing. 

In the book of Psalms, there are more laments than calls to praise. Laments dominate the beginning of the book, but the end? That belongs to praise. God does indeed turn our “wailing into dancing” (Psalm 30:11 NIV). He comforts all who mourn (Isaiah 61:2). The end of all our stories isn’t lament; it’s praise.

We could see the Easter story this way too: there was a rhythm of loss, sadness, grief and fear. But that was Friday—those were the in-between days we talked about earlier this month. And then Sunday came, along with praise, rejoicing, and dancing. 

Each of the resurrection accounts starts with the discovery of the empty tomb and Jesus’s instructions to go and tell His disciples He is alive (see Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10). Can you imagine the spiritual and emotional whiplash of moving from thinking all is lost to finding out that Jesus is alive, proving that He was exactly who He claimed to be and did what He claimed He would do? 

At first, Jesus’s followers were afraid. They were hiding still because they were afraid of what the Jewish leaders might do. When they discovered the empty tomb, at first they didn’t remember Jesus’s words; they didn’t remember this was a reason for praise. Instead, they mourned all the more because they thought someone had taken Jesus’s body. They were stuck in shock and disbelief. Maybe you can relate.

But when Jesus appeared to them, whether in the garden by the tomb, on the road, at dinner, or in a house behind a locked door, they were filled with joy and praised Him. Let’s take a look at a few of their responses: 

  • The women who had gone to His tomb “came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him” (Matthew 28:9).
  • Mary was surprised and wanted to cling to Him in her joy, but she did as he asked and went to tell the disciples what that He was alive and shared what He had spoken to her (see John 20:15-16,18)
  • Two saw Him while they were walking but didn’t recognize Him at first. But when he opened their eyes, they said their “hearts [burned] within [them]” (Luke 24:32). They told the others, but the others didn’t believe them (see Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:15-16, 30-35).
  • “The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (John 20:19-20).
  • The disciples believed in Jesus, and Thomas even called Him “my Lord and my God!” (John 20:26-28).
  • After Jesus ascended to heaven, they worshiped Him and went home filled with joy. Then, they preached the gospel as Jesus worked wonders through them (see Mark 16:14,19-20; Luke 24:51-53). 

It takes true effort of the soul to shift from despair, grief, hopelessness, helplessness, anger, or rage to praise. It takes true courage to learn to give thanks and to trust that although I am broken, others are broken, and this world is broken, God is working all things together for His good purposes—brokenness and sin do not have the final say. God does. Friday seemed like the end, like the world was irreparably broken, but Sunday dawned with hope for the future Jesus had promised. It will dawn for us too.

In the resurrection story, we see Jesus’s followers move through the cycle from despair to joy and praise. Like them, we are often caught up in the broken, sad, dilapidated parts of our lives and feel pain, grief, anger, sorrow, and other overwhelming emotions. And we are in desperate need of restoration. We have seen how God restores us through lament; how much more, then, will He restore us through praise?

We have great cause to celebrate who God is and how He changes, redeems, and rewrites our stories. These final psalms—Psalms 146–150—give us four specific things to celebrate.

  1. We are to celebrate that our help and our hope is the redeeming God of Jacob. (See Genesis 27–33 and Psalm 146). 
  2. We are to celebrate that God loves to help the weak (see Psalm 147).
  3. We are to celebrate that God gives us His living Word that changes us. 
  4. And finally, we are to celebrate and remember that God raises up for us a horn of salvation in Jesus (see Psalm 148).

So now that we know why we praise, we still need to know how to praise. So, how do we praise and tune our hearts rightly to our Creator, especially when praising and thanking is the last thing we often want to do?

We open our hearts to the living and active Word of God as we lean into Scripture and into Jesus, the Word Himself.

Instead of ignoring all our emotions or stuffing them inside while trying to smear a veneer of praise on the surface, we need to try to let them all come up and out. The past will eventually pop up in the present if it isn’t dealt with. Instead of suppressing our emotions, we must learn to pay attention to them, so we can trace our anxious, angry, hurtful, sinful reactions back to their source and give them to God instead of stuffing them deeper inside. 

This means we open our Bibles, maybe grab a journal and a pen, and pay attention. We pay attention to the anxious, fearful, hateful thoughts running around in our heads and hearts and tell Him what they are. Then we start “casting” them by praising Him. We cast by placing our cares within the context of His character. We cast by reminding Him who He is and what He has promised to do. We cast by remembering who He was in the past and who He promises to be in the future.

His care, constancy, and character give us cause and reason to cast, confess, remember, receive, and praise. 

We bring all that keeps us as individuals and groups apart—at a distance, at war with the goodness and grace and mercy of God—and expose it to the light of the love, mercy, and justice of God in the cross of Jesus Christ.

And as we take up the sword of the Spirit to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” and “take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5)—the enemies of darkness and the powers of the prince of the air and the works of the flesh that manifest in our lives are conquered and destroyed (2 Corinthians 10:3–4).

As we cast, praise, and conquer, we remember that praise is powerful stuff. Within it lies the power of restoration and redemption not only for us, but for our culture, and for all people on the face of the earth.

*All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For more information on restoring your attachment through your senses or earned secure attachment, check out Susannah’s book, Restore and download the first chapter for free!