How to praise God on the most awful days

On Monday, December 15, 2014, I found myself somewhere I really didn’t want to be. I was sitting in a very small office with my husband, a kind doctor and a bunch of scans. Then, he said the one word I had hoped to never hear… cancer.

I was 38 years old, had a four-year-old son and was in pretty good physical condition. And yet, God was calling me on a difficult journey. It was unthinkable. How did I end up here? What was God doing? What would the next year be like? How would this end?

In those early days of tests, tests and more tests, God gave me a great sense of His peace. He never told me how the story would end, but I knew I was being asked to trust and step out in faith in a greater way than I had ever done. He knows my days. He knows my story. So, this trial would ultimately be for His glory and my good.

“Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’ I say of the holy people who are in the land, ‘They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.’ Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips” (Psalm 16:1-4).

God was challenging me. Was it really true that apart from God I had nothing good? Even in cancer, did I believe He was truly good? Could He really keep me safe in the middle of disease and horrible treatments? Like David, I was begging God to keep me safe, to be my refuge.

“‘Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places, surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken'” (Psalm 16:5-8).

David says “the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” Is that true for me in the middle of my worst days? These verses challenged me to test my faith and see if it was real. When the days are good, these are easy verses. We like to pull these out when our ministries and lives are going well. But what about when things aren’t going so well? When you face a difficult diagnosis, as I did? When the church is terminating your husband? When you have prodigal children? When you are caring for ailing parents?

I have found that the key to being able to declare that we have a “delightful inheritance” is found in the first part of verse 5 where David said, “Lord, you alone are my portion and cup.” Our inheritance, our boundaries, are good because God is our portion! Like David, we can declare, “with him at my right hand, I will not be shaken…” especially when times are bad.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:9-11

Because God is our refuge and our portion—and because He has given us a delightful inheritance—we can rejoice! I didn’t know how my cancer journey would end. And though I currently show no evidence of disease, I still have no guarantee it won’t come back someday. But because I belong to the Lord, I rest knowing He will not abandon me. Even in death, He will be faithful. He is the path of life and the source of my joy and pleasures.

When we face trials, we have a choice. We can choose to rejoice as David did. Or, we can choose to let trials and difficulties make us bitter. We choose daily (sometimes minute-by-minute) how we will respond. 

I am so thankful that God teaches me to depend on Him more and more. Through those difficult moments, I have learned to praise Him, thank Him, depend on Him, and trust Him more. There were times when I was in treatment that I was unable to think clearly enough to pray for myself. I counted on the prayers of others in those moments. I also learned that I could praise God, even on the very worst days.

This song by Selah, I Bless Your Name, talks about the prisons in our minds. My prison was both physical and mental, but God’s grace sustained me and taught me to bless Him at all times, under all circumstances. I want to encourage you to take a few minutes to worship Him and praise Him for the ways He walks with us.

Published October 10, 2016