Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (Hebrews 13:15)
I vividly recall the morning that God showed me clearly what ‘a sacrifice of praise’ really means. It was a Sunday morning during our regular service. I had stepped down from leading worship that morning, because my beloved husband had passed away the day before from cancer of the spine. I was broken, inside the pain rather than it inside of me, and the last place I wanted to be was there in the fellowship, praising and worshiping God when I could not see where to place the next step or even which direction I was supposed to take.
I recall my stepson looking at me. I recall Him asking me to please ‘do Amazing Grace.’ I recall walking up the aisle of the church to the platform, wanting to run, to hide, to bury myself in a dark and secret place where nothing and no one could touch me. I recall my pastor handing me the mic, and a member of the team stepping up behind me to wrap her arms around my waist, her love and strength the very power of God to strengthen and sustain me. And I recall the opening bars as our pianist began the intro.
That moment remains with me to this day, not because of the emotions or the difficulty of it, but because God reached out to show me a truth that has sustained me ever since. In His infinite grace, He reached beyond the pain and loss and confusion and lifted me to a place I could not otherwise have understood. In that moment, my heart breaking and my world, as I knew it, torn apart, He revealed to me the full meaning of a sacrifice of praise.
There are times in life, when human understanding comes to nothing and all logic and reasoning dissipates into nothing – when a sacrifice of praise is all we have left. That is the moment when we reach out, when we move in faith. That is the moment when the unreality of our world steps aside, and the real truth of Christ and His perfect, enduring sacrifice is truly revealed. That is the moment when, like Job, we cry out: ‘though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.’
It was in that moment that I caught a glimpse of the faithfulness and eternity of God, for I could not have done that in my own strength. It was also the moment when I realised that the reality of God is so much bigger than myself, than my situation, than my deepest despair. It is in those moments, when everything that we know and take for granted is stripped away, that we encounter our own human weakness and God’s unfailing strength.
I learned a valuable truth: when the night is darkest, when the pain is greatest, when the loss is most painful, or when the way is utterly unclear, when we have nothing left – that is the time to offer the sacrifice of praise. It’s a sacrifice because it isn’t easy, it isn’t comfortable, it isn’t joyously spontaneous. It’s a painful and sometimes even grim determination to draw deep on the faith He has placed within us, and it is a choice we make. When we do, when self in its brokenness steps aside and, in obedience, we praise our God, we allow Him to release in us the power inherent in praise.
It forces our eyes off our situation and onto Him. It enables us to see the cross in the full and startling clarity of it’s eternal salvation, and we open ourselves to the transforming power of His grace. Instead of turning inward, instead of focusing on our pain, if we can turn to Him in praise and thanksgiving, despite all the other things that say otherwise, He is there with His love, His compassion and His mercy, to work all things to the good of those who love Him.
I thank you, Father, for the gracious revelation of Your love. I thank you that you have provided not only the way for us to reach You in these our darkest moments, but that You are there, waiting and willing to empower us to turn to you. Your grace, Your love, Your strength – these are eternal. Help me always to offer to You the sacrifice of praise, and especially in those moments when I feel least willing and least able to do so.