Yet again, it isn’t a blog

It’s a sort of exclamation this time. It’s a Eureka! moment as I head off to bed.

I’ve realised something about praise and joy. Something that you’ve probably known for ages, and intellectually it’s something I already knew but hadn’t quite cottoned on to. The dots weren’t joined up, you know? But now they are. A perfect circle. God’s perfect circle.

I’m reading a Psalm or two every day, and for the first time this book has grabbed me in the same way that Isaiah and Job and the Gospels and a few others have. Suddenly it’s come alive and some days I can’t stop at two or three, and then on other days I’m transfixed by one verse or one word.

What is my Eureka! moment? Well, in Psalms I’ve learned that if we praise the Lord our God we simply cannot be defeated by sadness or worry. Not at the same time. When we praise God our hearts lift and our spirits clamber up to the next level. Listen to Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
 Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.

List ’em – joy, gladness, songs, belonging, thanksgiving!

Joy when we praise him, gladness when we worship, songs (and shouts) and great roaring anthems of praise. We are made to worship God, and when we fulfil the purpose for which we were created, we are the happiest of all creatures. We are back in a state of grace, the Garden of Eden, made to walk with God in the cool of the evening (which, in the Middle East, is just a way of saying ‘the best part of the day’)

When we praise God, we don’t enter a mindless euphoric state, a Pollyanna pretence of bliss, Ukraine still breaks our heart, injustice still rankles, the world is still a sad and beautiful and fallen place, but none of this defeats us. We grab it and lift it up to God. We take our sorrow about Ukraine and our anger and confusion about Putin, and our frustration at our own leaders and we praise God that he holds all things together. When we think of God, turning to him intentionally, exploring his greatness and his goodness, we can’t help but praise him and, as we do, our joy and love grows and deepens.

Jesus quoted Isaiah 61 at the very start of his ministry, a bold and arresting declaration of prophecy fulfilled, in that first step in his long walk to Calvary and the cross. And because of the ignominious and glorious cross, inextricably intertwined with all the sadness and pain of sinful man, we have the promise of good news, freedom, joy and praise.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
   and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
d of a spirit of despair.

Listen, listen, think of this when the world seems to overwhelm you, when evil seems to be winning, and you can’t bear another news broadcast, know this, this is the Christian walk;

a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
d of a spirit of despair.

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