Many years ago I learned a lesson that has stuck with me for life. As I stood mutely next to my mother during the opening song of church, she poked me with her elbow and commanded in a stage whisper, "Sing!"
"I don't feel like singing," I muttered.
She had no sympathy. "Then that's exactly when you need to sing!"
So I sang. And I've been singing the clouds away, as the old song says, ever since. Of course, I forget sometimes and wallow in my despair before I remember to sing.
For years I've made it a practice to never turn on the radio or TV before I've had my personal devotions. Driving to work in the morning, as much as I love to hear the news, I choose to sing songs of worship to my Lord. The news can wait; I must start my day with praise.
Going through some tough times recently, I found myself waking up frequently night after night. Then it dawned on me that I wasn't thinking about my problem when I awoke. Instead, the melody and first four words of a song were going through my mind. (I only knew the first four words.) Strangely, it wasn't one of the songs that I regularly sang, nor was it one I knew from long ago. It was a traditional congregational hymn that was often sung in church.
In addition, even in the daytime when my mind would wander to the current stressor, that song was always in the background. I took out my hymnal, thinking that I really ought to learn the words to at least one stanza. My song of comfort begins:
"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,
The king of creation.
O my soul, praise Him,
For He is thy health and salvation!"
Recently I told a friend that I was going through the worse trial that I'd ever experienced. Later I asked myself, is this really true? Reflecting some more, I had to think hard to bring up old memories of trying times. Yes, there was the time my husband was sick and the time my daughter was sick. There were also the times the children had had difficult school experiences. These experiences were pretty rough, but I had a hard time remembering them now. When I finally did recall them it was without pain—that had been blotted out!
Time will heal my present hurt, and it will heal a lot faster as I sing praises to the Lord. Until now the situation was dragging me down. My health was beginning to suffer. Then I finally realized that "He is my health and salvation!"
Each phrase of "Praise to the Lord" is rich with praise and assurance. It's amazing that this hymn, penned by Joachim Neander in 1680, is encouraging people more than 300 years later. But then, maybe it isn't so amazing. Joachim Neander based his hymn on verses in Psalms 103 and 150 that David wrote centuries before the birth of Christ. Some things never change.
"Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, if with His love He befriend thee."
Thank you, Holy Spirit, for reminding me to turn my troubled heart to praise—especially in the middle of the night.