Praise God In Times of Sorrow

Praise God In Times of Sorrow February 15, 2011

1. Abba Poemen said of Abba Copres that he was so holy that when he was will and in bed, he still gave thanks and restrained his own will.

2. Abba Copres said, ‘Blessed is he who bears affliction with thankfulness.’[1]

When we are hurt, when we feel the world around us is falling apart, when all our hopes and dreams seem to be impossible to achieve, we tend to cry out in pain and feel as if life is not worth living. We might get angry and take it out on others. We might cry out to God, complaining to him for the lot we have been given. Rarely do we do what we should do: we need to appreciate what we have been given, and thank God for it. We need to be able to find peace and joy where we are at, without the need for externals. Those who are capable of doing this will be able to overcome all affliction – that is, they will not be brought down due to their afflictions. They will see beyond the pain and sorrow in their lives, for they will be able to see the source and limit of such afflictions. They know our burdens are temporary while the beatitude God seeks to grant us is eternal. And, if they have come to know themselves, if they have come to see the goodness within given to them by God, they will see what is most important is not what fortune brings, but what God in his grace grants to us for our own benefit.

When we feel despondent, when we feel life is dragging us down, the way to feel better is to praise God, thanking him as well for all he does for us. When we feel negative about ourselves and our circumstances in life, what we need to do is bring up thoughts which counter such negative views. We must look at our lives for what they are: as loving gifts given to us by God. Since they are given to us by God, then they are good. If they are good, they deserve our respect. We must contemplate the goodness God has done by making us and putting us in the world. This will lead to our own affirmation, to give us strength to get through the day, to overcome the temptation toward despair. When we feel like giving up, we must contemplate the good God has given to us, the love he shows us, and as we do this, it will lift us up, until at least we can bear all things—“ I can do all things in him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Job presents to us the human condition, and his response to his suffering was to question God, to wonder why he was born. Yet, that is as far as he went. He was unwilling to curse God, despite what his friends and family wanted him to do. Nonetheless, he went searching for God, hoping to find an answer for what he has suffered. This, of course, is one of the lessons we are to learn from the book. In our time of affliction, we should seek after God. We can ask him for answers. However, we should do more than question God, we should seek him because he is a God who comes to the aid of the afflicted. Even in the midst of suffering, we are called to praise him. To do so is to show our hope and faith in God, that he will do as he said he will do, that is, help us in our time of need:

For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and he has not hid his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.  From thee comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD! May your hearts live for ever! (Psalms 22:24-26)

We must understand why we give such praise to God. It is not, of course, because God is vain. Rather, it is because when we enter into praise, our spirit is lifted up, and our afflictions begin to feel as if nothing. We praise God, and we soar. Despair seeks to cut us off from God, to keep us down and depressed. We can so easily fall into despair if our life does not go as we wish it. Praise brings us back to God, and overcomes the psychological shackles despair puts on us. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”  (Philippians 4:8). We must focus our mind on what is good and holy. We must focus our mind on God and what he has given us. If we do so, our experience of the world and what happens in it will be improved. Joy will be there. We will find the peace which we want, not only in this life, but in eternity as well.

[1] The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. Trans. Benedicta Ward (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1984), 118.

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  • As the Carthusians say, “Stat crux dum volvitur orbis”: The cross is steady while the world is turning.

  • Liam

    Btw, the most famous piece of American choral concert music, “Alleluia” by Randall Thompson, was inspired by Job 1:21 – “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” – as a response to the German occupation of France in 1940.

  • Thank you so much for this inspirational post. It reminds me of a quote I read earlier in my devotional studies.. “The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.” ~Pope St. Gregory the Great

    Thanks so much, once again.

  • I was in a hospital bed about 30 years ago and at the time, things looked mighty bleak. I was just starting to feel sorry for myself when I noticed that the guy in the bed next to me was a quadriplegic. I instantly became grateful for my lot. Never forgot it either.