Upside Down Gratitude

Upside Down Gratitude: Praise

Praise is an expression of respect and gratitude. It is one component of worship. It’s an acknowledgement that God is who he says he is. We don’t conjure our praise. We can’t authentically praise a god we create, because praise is broader and beyond. 

Yes, we can praise one another for something, but that’s a different type of praise. It is affirmation and encouragement, and it’s important as we live in community with each other. Praise for God is different. It isn’t affirmation in the sense that we are approving but affirmation in the acknowledgement of God and his character. We praise God for his sovereignty, provision, goodness, patience, mercy, justice, wisdom, and so much more. We praise him for his beyondness, which I suppose I could express as greatness, but I don’t want to limit it to what we think is great, because it is a greatness beyond our full comprehension. God’s greatness is beyond us, and we praise him for that. Sure, it might be frustrating at times to not know and understand all the details of what he’s doing and why and when, but that’s who he is. And praise isn’t about us.

Praise focuses on God. Praise honors God. 

Praise is sacrifice, because it mandates humility, which, as we explored a few days ago, is an act of sacrifice. Sometimes we anticipate and find joy in the invitation and honor of praise. Other times, it feels difficult and sluggish and even confusing. When we consider it as a discipline, we keep that continuum of praise experiences together. Because discipline sometimes feels energizing and other times draining. It can feel obligatory. 

Some might ask, “Why do anything out of obligation? Do what you want and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!” But just because we feel something is obligatory doesn’t mean we don’t want to do it. We might not be jumping up and down about it. We might even say, “I don’t want to do this.” But we often still do whatever it is. 

For example, I used to say I didn’t want to go grocery shopping. I still went. I stopped saying I didn’t want to go, because I still chose to go. I chose it, because I wanted to prepare meals for my family. I wanted to be organized and prepared. So, one want was driving another task, which, in essence, was something I wanted to do even if I expressed otherwise.

We might say we don’t want to go to work, but we go, because we want a paycheck or don’t want to leave coworkers in a difficult situation. So, in essence, we want to go to work. It’s what we’re choosing over something else. I’m sure you can come up with many of your own examples from everyday life.

It might seem like wordplay, but what we say to ourselves and others has an impact. When we say we don’t want to do something when we still go through with it, it almost sounds as if we are claiming to be a victim or we’re helpless without a choice. When we say something like, “It’s not my favorite thing to do, but I’m going to do it because…,” we take responsibility. We acknowledge our choice in the process. We recognize we have options, and we’re choosing one thing over another (or lots of anothers).

Do we always feel like praising God? No. (At least, not most people I know, but perhaps you can claim otherwise.)

Does that make us an unfaithful person? Absolutely not. 

If we choose to praise God when we don’t feel like, does it mean we’re being fake or disciplined? Yes. It can mean either. But you and God know. I can’t say I know this with every ounce of certainty, but I know God well enough to be confident in saying fake praise is not well accepted. But God receives hesitant yet disciplined praise as a sacrifice, because you are putting aside your feelings, which are likely temporary, and choosing to acknowledge God even though your voice might be weak and your words might feel empty.

Praise is never truly empty when it’s focused on God. Discipline is never worthless when it’s focused on God.

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