From: Natasha Cassamajor
“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” Psalm 9.1-2
My previous church believed you could praise your way out of darkness and despair. They believed opening our mouths to praise God, especially when we don’t feel like it, shuts the devil up (or at the very least turns our gaze to the goodness and the promises of God). On a typical Sunday, as we entered the sanctuary, we were encouraged to lift up our hands and raise our voices in thanksgiving. This is one of the few things that I miss about my old church. The people who got the most from this deliberate display of thanksgiving were those who were feeling down in the dumps and beaten up by life, those who did not “feel like” giving praise. Today, just reading these words of thanksgiving broke down this wall that is blocking my joy.
It is not easy to give God praise when we are suffering. Jesus says we will have trouble in this world and we will suffer. Sometimes we find more comfort in Psalm 10.1 “Why, O Lord do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” It is much easier to tell God that we are suffering because he is not doing a good job comforting us and keeping us safe. The truth of God’s goodness pushes me to say thank you even while I’m in pain. (This reflection has unintentionally turned into a challenge to give God praise for something every day during Lent. Some practice Lent by adding a spiritual practice, rather than or in addition to giving something up. Try it with me if you’d like.)
I live in Cambridge and I’m still looking forward to visiting the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C.