One of my favorite shows is Alone. They take ten people, put them in a hostile environment with ten items and have them survive until everyone taps out. It appeals to me for many reasons, but one of my favorite parts is when the contestants have been alone and hungry for about 30 days. There is a huge psychological battle every contestant faces as they document themselves on this journey. Some grow to hate the location, the hunger, the isolation and the constant struggle for food and water. Then there are others who are in a similar location a few miles away that get ahold of the negative thoughts and begin speaking positive words instead. In every case, the ones who continue to speak negatively tap out of the contest. The one who can continue to find positive things through the struggle is the one who wins.
I’m not sure there’s another person in the Bible besides Jesus who suffered more than Paul. He was imprisoned multiple times in jails that were dark, nasty and had no humanitarian standards for prisoners. He was shipwrecked, beaten to a pulp many times, dragged out of cities, lied about, stoned, robbed, left for dead and abandoned. The things he went through, many of us couldn’t survive. However, Paul kept preaching the Gospel, writing letters and encouraging others through it all. My favorite story is when he was in a dungeon of a prison, bleeding and hungry, and he starts singing praises to God for all to hear. No matter how bad things were, he found a way to praise and refocus his attention on God instead of his circumstances.
David was a lot like him too. In Psalm 34:1-2 David penned, “I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart” (NLT). He didn’t say, “I want to praise the Lord at all times.” He was saying, “I will,” as in he’s not going to give his mind the choice to do anything else. Do you have have an “I will praise the Lord at all times” attitude? You need to decide that attitude ahead of your circumstances, but even if you’re in the middle of hard times now, you can choose it. Praising God doesn’t change your circumstances, it changes you in the middle of them. It strengthens you and puts your focus on the One who is greater than what you’re facing. If you haven’t chosen to praise the Lord at all times, do it today and put it into practice. He deserves to be praised in the good times and the bad.
If you’ve ever read the book of Job, you may have found yourself feeling sorry for him. There may have been times in your life when you’ve even related to him too. I know I have had those moments. When you go through periods of loss or continuous disappointment, Job is a great book to read. You will find that there’s always someone who has it worse than you, there is purpose in pain and that you can endure anything. I don’t know how many times I’ve read the book, but I can tell you that I’m still amazed when I come to the end of the first chapter. After Job has lost all his livestock, his riches and his children, he doesn’t curse God. He doesn’t cry out, “Why me?” Instead, it says he fell to his knees and worshipped God. He recognized that everything he had came from God, and if God took it all back, he was good with it.
I can honestly say that during my times of great disappointment and loss, that was not my attitude. To stand on rock bottom in life, look up from the hole you’re in and bless God seems unfathomable, yet Job was able to. If he was able to, you and I are to. He made the choice to worship instead of to whine. He chose to bless God instead of to curse Him. He made the choice to recognize everything he had belonged to God and wasn’t a result of His own work. The perspective he had challenges me to readjust and calibrate how I see God and how I react in the bad times. It’s easy to worship when things are going well, but can we worship when everything seems to be going wrong? Can we praise Him when our prayers are unanswered? Can we thank Him when we don’t see a way forward? Can you say, “Even though I’m broken, yet will I praise you”?
Habakkuk 3:17-18 says, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (NLT) There’s a very similar picture here to the attitude Job had and that we are to have. Joy is not something that is circumstantial. It doesn’t rely on what’s going on around you. Joy looks at where your strength comes from. It looks at who your hope is in. It is defiant in the face of any circumstance you may face, and it says, “My hope is not in al, these things. My hope is in God. No matter what comes my way, I know that my God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than I can ask or pray for. Even though things look bad now, yet will I praise God! He is my rock, my fortress and my salvation.” You and I have that same spirit of joy within us. In tough times, activate it and worship. Remind yourself that God is in control, He has a plan and that no matter what happens you will continue to trust and to praise Him.