1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
What a bitter word ... sometimes.
Since we are often are led to think of praise as something joyful, exuberant, exultant - woo hoo, whoopee ding dang, and ain’t God’s love just the most wonderful thing in the world?”
But such is not the case with my good friend, Jeremiah the Prophet.
Nor is it the case with another good friend, Job.
Or, for that matter, my Savior, Jesus ... who certainly isn’t jumping up and down, waving his arms, and shouting Hosanna in the Garden of Gethsemane.
So, the question: does “praise” include the darker notes of despair, sorrow, bitterness, rage, disappointment? Does “praise” include the dark moments of a Jeremiah, a Job and a Jesus?
I believe so.
To turn toward God in despair, to lament the times, or one’s situation ... to level the charges of doubt ... to question God’s integrity ... to get totally pissed off at God ... to lay before God all the complaints of life ...
That, too, is praise ...
It speaks the truth of the moment ... it’s honest and forthright ... and in a curious way, expresses confidence that God will hear, that God deserves to hear, that God can be trusted even when I’m expressing my gravest doubts - accusing God, questioning God, ready to walk away from God and never look back!
It helps empty the soul of darkness ... and heaven knows, and so do I, that the soul needs a good shaking out now and then, to empty it, of all things, good and bad, to make room for another day.
Whatever is has to be admitted, confronted, expressed ... repression is the servant of despair ... free expression is the consort of love ... “a love that will not let me go” ... because “there is a wideness in God’s mercy” ...
So, on those bitter days when God’s love seems more like a cruel joke than a blessing, this, too, is a part of our journey ... a chapter among many other such chapters ... so let God have it, express the darkness of despair, the Dark Night of the Soul, and such is, in its own curious way, a form of praise.
And I dare say, that God welcomes, above all else, honesty ... honesty is the first virtue of praise! ... the exultant expression, or the moment soaked in tears and bitterness, the dance of joy or the dirge of despair.
Praise the LORD ... all my life long.