Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Praise

Happy summer, everyone! Or, "happy summer!" to anyone who still reads this. I'm thinking that between W and my lack of activity on the site and Google Reader's imminent shut-down, our readership may be next to nothing here soon. Not that that is all that bothersome to me.

I was thinking this morning of getting on here today to officially close the blog... at least saying something related to closure before W and I proceed to never write again. That's slightly better than all the other blogs that just die a long, slow death due to negligence, right? I hate the idea of being one more blogger that just never blogs... and yet, I'm also not sure that I want to get rid of this thing entirely. It had a good run for about two years and it captured some seriously significant times in both of our lives. In fact, I spent much of this morning reading through some previous posts and it was both meaningful and enjoyable to do so. So, after some thought, I've decided that I'll keep the blog around and just assume that I'm the only one who reads it. That takes some of the pressure off, right? That way I can just post when I want and not worry about it the other times. It also eliminates the obligatory "wow, I can't believe how much time has passed!" introductions. Moreover, it's pretty obvious that W is checked out, since the seven of the last eight posts have been mine. Her husband stops working 120 hours a week and all of a sudden she acts like she's too busy enjoying married life to blog! Psh! haha But in all seriousness, I don't mind continuing to run this thing on my own, even if that means I only update once a quarter. I suppose that's better than nothing!

Anyway, I've been thinking lately about blessing and contentment. My new husband and I continue to enjoy a period of great blessing; in fact, just about every single thing that could possibly go our way over the past year... has. It's been rich and sweet and joyful and overwhelming and awesome. We honestly could not be happier or more full of joy. I wish every newlywed could say the same of their engagement/wedding/honeymoon/new marriage.

And yet, I've found myself plagued throughout the past year with this continual discomfort. It's like I truly do not know what to do with myself under these circumstances. I have alternated between feeling guilty (ie: how can I enjoy all of this blessing when I know other people who are so miserable right now?), fearful (ie: when is all of this going to come crashing down?), and inadequate (ie: should I be serving more, sacrificing more, praying more, etc? Should I force myself into a season of want so I depend on God more?). As you can see, it's been weird. And confusing. Churches and blogs and books do a pretty good job of giving us a guidebook for what the Christian life looks like when times are tough - cling to your faith, renew your mind, find joy in Christ, practice trust... and, honestly, I have experienced that and grown close to God by doing all those things. Yet, where is the guidebook for when things are great? What does the Christian life look like then?

I know that these feelings of guilt, fear, and inadequacy are not from God. God gives us gifts for our enjoyment. He gives us "time to laugh" and "time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:4). He gives us gifts that are meant to bring honor and glory to Him. Guilt, fear, and feelings of inadequacy are not of God but of the father of lies himself. And yet, how do I draw the line between enjoying my season of blessing, and yet being sensitive to those in need? Between appreciating these gifts but not clinging to them as idols that will destroy me if they are taken away? Between savoring the fruit of this joyful time without letting my comfort replace my need for God? It is a balancing act, and I fear that I've spent too much time worrying about getting it wrong.

This morning I decided that I would read some Psalms that have to do with God's blessing. It has finally occurred to me that maybe resting in the blessings is really all that I'm supposed to be doing right now. It occurred to me that feeling guilty or fearful or inadequate is not making me somehow holier, but instead just polluting a season that God has ordained to be nothing other than pure and sweet. So, I did a quick google search for Bible passages about blessing and was pointed to Psalm 34. In particular, verses 1-3 stood out to me:

"I will extol the Lord at all times; 
his praise will always be on my lips. 
My soul will boast in the Lord; 
let the afflicted hear and rejoice. 
Glorify the Lord with me;
let us exalt his name together."

I even googled the definitions of extol and exalt to help me get the greatest clarity on this passage. Here's that translation:


"I will praise the Lord enthusiastically at all times; 
his praise will always be on my lips. 
My soul will boast in the Lord; 
let the afflicted hear and rejoice. 
Glorify the Lord with me;
let us speak highly of his name together."

I just love what the passage has to say! It is not only righteous to praise the Lord amidst trial and tribulation, but it is also okay (heck, encouraged) to "boast in the Lord" in times of blessing. For some reason I've been fearful to praise God for all of this blessing because I don't want to sound spoiled or rub salt in the wound of anyone who may be struggling. And yet, look what this verse says - "let the afflicted hear and rejoice... let us exalt his name together." We are called to share our joys with the afflicted, not to brag or boast in ourselves, but to boast in the Lord's goodness. It should not be salt in the wound but actually salve for the wound; if the afflicted cannot find reason for praise within their circumstances, they can glorify the Lord in their praise of His goodness in the lives of others.

So now I am growing in confidence that it's okay to rest in these blessings. It's okay to share my joy with others and praise God openly for His awesome display of goodness in my life. So long as I boast in God's goodness, and not my own deservedness, I'm honoring Him and His blessings. I pray that, as long as this season continues, I will enjoy the blessings as gifts from a supremely loving God, steward them thoughtfully to serve and encourage others around me, and use them as a platform for praise. That is enough.

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