In 1870, Horatio Spafford lost his only son to scarlet fever. In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire decimated his fortune. In 1873, he lost both his daughters in a shipwreck. On the ship to meet his wife, the sole survivor, he sat down to write these words as the ship passed by his daughters’ ocean grave:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
After four years of utter despair, having lost nearly everything, Spafford bravely worshiped God. His words now constitute one of the most well-known hymns in history.
The Bible teaches that God is near to those who praise Him. He knows the deepest concerns of our hearts (Psalm 139). Praise melts our hearts so that we are no longer hardened by sin or disappointment. And while God never requires our praise, He certainly desires it. But what is it about praise and thanksgiving that brings the Lord and the believer so close together?
Praise re-establishes God’s reign over our hearts.
Praise is often difficult because it is an invitation for God to have authority in your life. Turning the authority of your life over to Him means not having to worry about your future. With God as your loving King, you will be able to stand on His promises for your life (Jeremiah 29:11).
Praise reveals the true spiritual condition of our hearts and molds us into His image.
When praising God, what do you say? Your words are important because they reveal what is in your heart (Matthew 12:34). Your praise reveals the places in your life where God is working and how much you really believe in Him. Through praise, God opens your heart so that you will know and trust Him more deeply.
Praise refocuses our hearts so we can see God’s plan for the future.
In this life, you will face trials and troubles (John 16:33). If you focus solely on your problems, eventually you will believe that disappointment is your destiny. However, Jesus has overcome every evil obstacle, and He is your hope. If you focus on God’s power, love, and glory, you will realize that redemption and victory are possible in Christ.
Praise fortifies our relationship with God.
Praise reminds you that God loves you with an everlasting love. Praise helps you recall that you are not alone. By expressing your adoration and thanksgiving to Him, you not only accept His love, you also learn how to reciprocate the love He gives to you (Revelation 5:12).
In Psalm 100, the psalmist instructs us to “Shout for joy to the Lord. . . . Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. . . . Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:1-2, 4-5).
What is the ultimate reason for our praise? The last verse provides a clear answer: “For the Lord is good.”
We praise God because He is worthy of all worship, no matter what we are experiencing or how we are feeling. Through praise, God prepares us to worship Him completely—mind, body, and soul. When we behold the worthiness of God in praise, it’s hard to leave unchanged. When we praise Him fully, His greatness overcomes the hopelessness of our situation. When we exalt His name, we experience the depths of His love. That is why Paul admonishes us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4).
Do you want to love God extravagantly? Do you want to trust Him more than you ever have before? Begin to worship God for His faithfulness. Exalt Him for His love. Thank Him for His nearness in trouble. Praise Him for His overcoming power. Let nothing hold you back from giving Him all praise.