Pain and Praise

I’ve felt, often in the past, that these two things are opposites – pain and praise.  Why would you turn toward God in worship in the middle of pain?  How could you?  Why would you want to?  And on the other side of things, how could you praise God and also feel pain?  It doesn’t make sense.  At least, it hasn’t made a lot of sense until recently.

Life and the Scriptures are teaching me that praise and pain are not opposites (like Superman and Bizarro, who live in parallel worlds and never exist in the same space…except for that one episode of Superfriends…but I digress).  Grief and worship are not two separate things that cannot exist in the same space.  One does not suck the oxygen away from the other.

The Bible speaks to this often:

-Job grieved in the ashes and praised God at the same time (Job 1, 2)

-Paul and Silas worshiped God in a dark, damp prison cell (Acts 16)

-David praised God in the Psalms while on the run for his life and being attacked from all sides

-Jesus worshiped in the garden of Gethsemane, knowing the pain that was before him

I found myself turning my heart toward God shortly after Susan passed away.  At church, singing with my church family…it just felt natural in the middle of the pain to turn to Him.  It wasn’t a joy-filled, “everything-is-alright-forget-about-what’s-going-on” worship experience.  It was much more real than that.

It’s more like this: The pain is so great that I don’t know where else to turn.  There is no hope other than the hope found in Jesus Christ.  There is nothing here that can soothe, nothing that can diminish it, nothing that will satisfy.  He is the only One with the answers, the only One who has what I need.  He is the only One who can handle it.

What I am learning about pain too, though, is that God can do great things out of it.  He uses it to shape our lives.  We spend lots of life trying to avoid pain in different ways.  And I’m human – which means I’d avoid this pain if I could.  But I can’t.  There is no way around it, no way past it, or over.

That means I have to go through it.  And I’d rather have God along for the journey than go it alone.

Even when He’s quiet.  Even when I don’t understand Him.  Even when it seems like it’s too much to bear.  Worship connects my heart to Him in the middle of the pain, and yes, it somehow makes this more bearable.  Worship, after all, is about speaking the truth.  And turning to God reminds me that the truth is that pain, separation, loneliness, tears, cancer, and disease – all of these are temporary.  They won’t last.

“Weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”  Psalm 30:5

On top of this, our wounds make us who we are.  Susan and I always said that cancer would mark us, it would change us – we would never be the same.  She knew that God was using this unwelcome situation to grow us.  I’m trying to trust (some days successfully, other days, not) that God is going to make sure that this pain is not wasted.

Our 6 year old son, Luke, will fight me sometimes when he doesn’t agree with something I’ve done.  He will kick at me, fuss, hang his head, and storm off.  But he always – ALWAYS – comes back to my lap and wants to sit close together.  Nothing reminds me of my relationship with God more than that right now.


“Our wounds are part of who we are, and there is nothing left to chance,

And pain’s the pen that writes the songs, and they call us forth to dance.”

-Michael Card


8 Responses to “Pain and Praise”

  1. Kristin Brown Says:

    just before I read your post I was listening to “you never let go” by matt redman and thinking it was a song you could be singing today.

  2. Sharon Says:

    Your last paragraph today, analogy of son Luke to our relationship with Christ was so incredibly powerful and illustrative. Thank you for being so real and open with all of us, even those who don’t know you, like me.

  3. Lin Essick Says:

    Jerel, you have always been a gifted minister, but walking through your grief has been so inspiring to so many people and I see God’s hand using this as you minister to the rest of us. I feel so guilty saying that, because I don’t want you to have to go through this so that others are blessed. I remember watching Susan’s face as she watched you give messages. I can imagine that sweet face, so full of love for you, watching you now. I can definitely relate to your post today. My pain is nothing compared to what you’re going through,but today I felt so shamed by my human-ness. It’s so hard to be in this world, but not of it. I really wanted to curl up in a ball and hide my face from God today. I turned on Selah, and worshipped God through two songs in particular: You are my Hiding Place and I Need Thee Every Hour. Through my worship, I felt God cover me-again. And soon, I felt forgiveness and redemption. I was like your little Luke today, crawling back up into God’s lap. Joey told me that you’ve written a book. I want to buy several of them. I’m praying for ya’ll. Lin

  4. Liz Mann Fischer Says:

    Happy Birthday, Bailey! Hope that you have a great time at the Father-Daughter dance. I know your mom and dad will have proud tears today.

  5. Lynn Marshall Says:

    We are still praying that God will allow you to see the gleam of light through the clouds. To know that one day the clouds will break and the light will stream through. Thank you for sharing your journey and the reality of your pain but also the goodness of God through it.

    I hope Bailey had a Happy Birthday and a great time at the Father/Daughter dance.

  6. Donna Says:

    Very well said. I understand what you are saying with praise and pain not being opposites, but was never able to put it into words that make sense.

  7. Linda Reeb Says:

    Loved the story about Luke – so true!

  8. Nicki Stephens Says:

    Amen, praising Him in every storm. Our suffering teaches us total submission, it teaches us what worship truly is, it teaches us who we need to be. God is sovereign. God is faithful.

    I’m a bereaved mother, wife, and friend. One storm, right after another. God continues to be lovingly present.

    Prayers are with you and your family.

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