“It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High.” Ps 92:1
I recently finished reading a book by C.S. Lewis entitled A Grief Observed. It is a rather raw and honest chronicle (taken directly from his journal) of the days and months that followed the death of his wife Joy. Lewis married Joy while she was in the hospital receiving treatments for cancer. And while there was a few years reprieve through remission, Joy finally succumbed to the disease. To say the least, it rocked Lewis’ world. He wrestled with all the pain and emotions any of us would at the loss of a loved one. I enjoyed his honesty and frankness at what he was thinking and feeling throughout his time of loss, and his attempts to come to grips with this brusque invader we know as death.
Toward the end of his book (though not to be confused with the end of his journey) he writes pointedly about praise. I offer an extended quote from the book with this as a footnote: he calls his bride Joy “H” (for reasons I do not know).
The notes have been about myself, and about H., and about God. In that order. The order and the proportions exactly what they ought not to have been. And I see I have nowhere fallen into that mode of thinking about either which we call praising them. Yet that would have been best for me. Praise is the mode of love which always has some element of joy in it. Praise in due order; of Him as the giver, of her as the gift. Don’t we in praise somehow enjoy what we praise, however far from it we are? I must do more of this. I have lost the fruition I once had of H. And I am far, far away in the valley of my unlikeness, from the fruition which, if His mercies are infinite, I may some time have of God. But by praising I can still in some degree, enjoy her, and already, in some degree, enjoy Him. (see page 74)
Praise has benefit, so concludes Lewis. It brings about a certain sense of joy, for I delight in that for which I praise. There is a degree of enjoyment that comes from praising that no other activity seems to relay. I appreciate the fact that praise doesn’t always have to be “close” or what I understand as immediate. Even if we are far away from the thing we praise, there is a genuine sense of joy and real enjoyment centered in the mere fact of praising.
I believe this is useful stuff for the journey of faith. Any time at all spent walking through what John Bunyan called “t he wilderness of this world” will reveal the harsh realities of life. They could be as simple as disappointment in unrealized expectations, as constant as pain (emotional, physical, and all others known to humanity) that appears to have no terminus point, or as brutal as wounding and loss. The older we get, the more sensitive we become to these realities in and around us.
Observation and experience have taught me that individuals respond largely in one of two ways to these rather challenging stimuli: they either become hardened or they become praisers! Hardened folks have harshness to their disposition. I once read a story about a young man who found a $5 bill on the ground and who from that time on never lifted his eyes when walking. In the course of years he had found 29, 516 buttons, 54, 172 pins, 12 cents, a bent back, and a miserly disposition. Never once could the man see flowers in bloom, sunlight reflecting on the water, or smiles on friendly faces. So too, those who allow the brusqueness of life to shape their souls.
Contrast the praisers, who look instead to learn the art of enjoying what is around them, even if those things are at a distance. As Lewis reminds us, But by praising I can still in some degree, enjoy her, and already in some degree, enjoy Him. There is enjoyment to be found in all matter of things, and praise seems to be the key that unlocks that potential.
So the question that naturally arises is—am I a praiser? Do I take the time to enjoy those people around me who occupy my attention? Do I take the time to enjoy, in some degree, the God who is infinitely above me? With the psalmist we may proclaim, “it is good to praise Your name, O most High!!”
Blessings on the Journey,