Psalm 34:1 I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.

I am a numbers guy. I am a bi-vocational pastor and when I am not doing my “preacher thing” I am trying to get junior high kids to not only understand but to love math! Let me tell you that is a challenging job that few would ever choose as a career. People always look at me funny when I tell them I teach junior high! I think the majority of them instantly think…”You are crazy!”

Being a numbers guy you can probably guess I was never really good at English. I struggled with it quite a bit in high school and even more when I reached college. Kind of ironic when you think about my calling as a pastor thrusting me into God’s words on a daily basis. So when I study the Bible I spend a lot of time not just looking at what a sentence or verse says but I like to look at the words and study them specifically to help me really understand the depth of the verse and the message God is giving us through the writer. 

Verse 1 starts off with a proclamation, “I will.” As a husband this is a phrase that can often get thrown around very easily and without a lot of conviction. “I will take the trash out at commercial (not being specific which commercial).” “I will build the shelf in the laundry room when I have time (of course that means when NCAA and NFL football isn’t taking precedent.) “I will….I will…I will… It is often said as something we will get to eventually. Even though we don’t really know when eventually will be. 

David is not using the husbands meaning of “I will.” He is making a proclamation. Proclamation is defined as “a public or official announcement, especially one dealing with a matter of great importance.” David is making it public for all to read. Of course what he is talking about is of great importance too. 

So there was the easy part, now we come to a word I am betting you haven’t used and conversation for some time, IF EVER! “Extol” Looks like the name of an oil company for something. David says “I will extol the Lord at all times.” Some translations use the word bless or praise. The original word used means ‘to lift up’ ‘to elevate’ to ‘declare great.’ Some other translations use the words bless or praise. I like using praise because I believe it goes with the second part of the verse. 

The challenging part of David’s statement is that he praises the Lord ALL THE TIME. No matter what he is going through, no matter the pain he is suffering, no matter how difficult life gets he still declares his Lord to be great!. He reiterates that point with the second part of the verse when he says, “His praise will always be on my lips.” David emphasizes “at all times” and “will always.” It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what he means there. Those phrases are all encompassing. David is saying there isn’t a time that we shouldn’t be praising the Lord. I have lived forty-four years on this spinning ball we call Earth and I can tell you that praising the Lord all the time is extremely challenging! It often seems impossible! 

The summer between my 8th grade year and freshman year of high school I lost my best friend to cancer. I remember sitting across from him in the hospital the first time I visited him after he was diagnosed. He looked me in the eye and said, “I have cancer.” All I could say was “I know.” My heart broke in that moment and let me tell you I didn’t feel like praising the Lord at that moment. When I got the call that summer Sunday morning telling me that he had passed away I didn’t feel like praising the Lord. When the mother of my children told me she wanted a divorce I didn’t feel like praising the Lord. 

So how do we do it? How do we Praise the Lord and declare Him as great as we walk through the difficult times we face on this Earth? First and foremost I remind myself that God makes no mistakes. Even though the outcomes aren’t always what I want I know that God has a plan. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” When things happen in our life we may see the bad but God sees the good! He doesn’t see the “small” window of hurt and pain we endure he sees the entire spectrum. I hate the fact that Jason went through pain and suffering but he left this earth early to be with his Savior. I feel almost selfish now to wish that he was here. He got to go home early. Yes it still hurts but I should have praised the Lord for his wonderful gift of salvation that Jason received. I should have praised the Lord that August 16th wasn’t the end for Jason it was the beginning of eternity for Him!
Looking back at the difficult times in my life I can later see why and how I could have praised the Lord. Now I challenge myself, although still difficult, to praise the Lord in the struggles, trials and pain. Find the things that are worthy of praise. Focus on Him and what he has done and will do through the struggles. I know you are probably thinking, you don’t know my hurt, you don’t understand what I have gone through. You are right, I don’t and probably can’t. However, I know that he does! He knows the hurt and the pain. In John 16:33 he tells us “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

There is nothing in this world that is not under the power of God. There is nothing in your life that happens that he isn’t working in! Praise Him during the difficulties because through those ashes good will rise. Yes the ashes will still be there! The pain, the hurt, the loss, it doesn’t leave but God makes beauty from those ashes and changes lives for eternity through it. So no matter what you are walking through or how difficult life is praise Him! Declare Him great because he is and always will be!

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