1) Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God,
2) Keep the vows you’ve made to the Most High,
3) Call on Him when you’re in trouble,
4) He will rescue you, and
5) You will give Him glory. (Psa. 50:14-15)
It’s a great plan! Not one of the latest self-help crazes, but the one set in motion by a thankful heart and willing spirit, the plan God designed and He personally administers, the one where He helps you – not because you helped yourself, but because you cried out to Him when you could not help yourself, and then, by His gracious intervention, you are able to rise and shine, and give Him the glory. It’s not contrived or self-serving. It is completely the Lord’s doing. And it pretty much sums up my spiritual and musical journeys, for they are one and the same.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been in preparation for ministry when a particular obstacle or extreme personal difficulty loomed in front of me the week or evening (sometimes moments) before I was to sing. Some things were just bizarre. The type of bad news that makes your heart pound, tying a knot in your stomach and stopping you dead in your tracks, the impossible situation that makes you feel like you are way out of your league or worse yet – you misunderstood His calling and don’t belong there at all. What are you supposed to do when that happens?
You can deny the impact it has on you. You can run and hide. You can lash out in frustration to anyone who’ll listen. You can blame it on the devil or get mad at God. You can make excuses or you can quit altogether. But frankly, none of these are very effective, and all are inappropriate responses that circumvent the first step in this plan, “Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God.” I ought to know; I’m the poster child for trying all the wrong things first!
You can over-compensate by trying to give more, do more, be more. But what we so often forget is that He already owns everything and is never in need of anything – much less, anything we have to offer. But He does ask for our sacrifice of praise. And while He takes no pleasure in superficial vows that we may have been pressured or guilted into making, He does expect us to keep the promises we have made to Him.
Over the years, I’ve come to expect the unexpected, often unwelcome, last minute intrusions into my blissful and properly controlled environment, one I thought was necessary to prepare myself for times of ministry (did you catch that – ‘prepare myself?’). I had to let go of the expectation that God should provide me with a trouble-free bubble in which to float about until it’s time to carry out the work He has called me to do. I mean, really! There is no such thing as a Christian diva – a spiritual prima donna. I have found that the blessing most often arrives in the arms of the unexpected. It can be cleverly disguised as a difficult person, a disappointing relationship, a desperate need or challenging situation. God’s provision is patiently waiting in the wings while the unexpected carries out its role in my life and His power shines brightest on the dark stage of my needy heart.
I’d like to tell you all about my Mom’s debilitating illness that began just before I left for Nashville last November, as well as her home-going in March, because they were two of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to deal with. I could point out how the timing seemed all wrong and a little cruel at first, but I think I’ll reserve that story and the song it sang for the next album. For you see, in spite of all the difficulties, I have the wonderful gift of God’s presence and peace. He has filled my heart to overflowing, enabling me to offer up the beautiful sacrifice of praise. He has given me the grace and strength I needed to fulfill my vows to Him, and He has come to my rescue time and time again. I pray this will be your reality, too, and that these simple songs will bring comfort and encouragement to you wherever you are.
I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me. Psalm 57:2
Blessings on your journey!