I Will Yet Praise Him
COVID-19 has forced the world into a season of exile. And many of us have felt like we're left to wander in the wilderness. But we can look forward to the day when we will gather together again. That is the day when we will worship in joy, rather than worship in desperation and need. Amanda Opelt, who is actively involved with theHeart church family, shares a message of hope for all of us.
By Amanda Opelt, Blog Contributor
There was a time, not long ago, after a season of hardship, that I found it difficult to worship.
I’d stand in shadowy corners watching my fellow churchgoers raise their voices and their hands. I’d see their closed eyes and serene faces. I’d remember with muted sentimentality and silent sadness the days when I too could join the song. I’d remember the sublime experience of connecting with my Creator, of naming His good deeds, and of lifting up my appeals for a closer walk with Him. No longer. In this season, I felt numb. I felt detached. I felt like a quiet bystander, observing a ritual once dear to me, but now strangely foreign.
One morning during this challenging time, I found myself at a chapel service for a work-related event. The worship band opened with a song familiar to me from my childhood growing up in the church during the early 90s.
“As the deer panteth for the waters so my soul longeth after Thee.”
I rolled my eyes smugly. "Who even sings this song anymore?" It felt like a worn-out refrain for a worn-out soul. Standing in the back, I shifted my weight uncomfortably and braced myself to wait out the chorus until the end. But as the words traveled back to my isolated corner, I began to absorb them, as if for the first time.
“My soul longs for you.”
“You alone are my heart’s desire.”
“I long to worship You.”
Without warning, something broke open in my soul, something I hadn’t felt for many months. It was a recognition of the grief I was feeling, the deep anguish at feeling like I’d lost my access to that sweet presence of God, to the healing experience of worship. I felt my eyes flood with tears and my hands raise. I acknowledged my thirst, how parched I was, how desperate I was.
The Rallying Cry of Hope
Later that day, I flipped in my Bible to find Psalm 42, upon which that seemingly dated song is based. Contrary to the pleasant tone and cadence of the 90s era chorus, the Psalm is an agonized and despondent lament in which David mourns the fact that He can no longer worship in the house of God. He is remembering former days when he would join in song with crowds of people, worshiping with joyful hearts. But now, he is in exile, driven from his home by his enemies.
David is remembering his past life from a wilderness setting, the valley of the Jordan River, and the heights of Hermon—places commentators note were fraught with wild animals and difficult to inhabit. The mountains referenced were cold and windswept, covered in snow. David is in an inhospitable landscape, remembering the warmth and joy he felt in the presence of God.
But as the Psalm progresses, David discovers a new disposition of worship. It is not the “festive throng” he remembers. It is a tear-soaked interrogation of the soul. It is deep calling out to deep. It is a remembering of the purity that once was in hopes of once again experiencing the fullness that will someday be.
“Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him…”
This is the rallying cry of the doubters and the bereaved. The terrain of loss and grief is a rocky one. Disbelief can leave you feeling like a wanderer in a wilderness without a map or compass. Enemies and wild animals are tracking you, thirst for God’s presence threatens to kill you. But we have hope of stumbling upon the road again. Hope that we’ll be found. Hope that streams of living water are within reach if we just keep journeying on.
He is the God of Our Lives
Spring of 2020 has been a season of exile for so many. We long to gather together in the house of God. We long for a return to normal, for the fears and uncertainties to subside, for the health and financial hardships to end. But there is worship to be found even as we lose our proximity to the house of God.
As David writes in Psalm 42, God is still directing His love. His song is with us, even as we sing alone, in isolation, in the midst of loneliness and ambiguity.
Verse 8 proclaims that He is the God of our lives—our entire lives, not just our moments in church or small groups or religious rituals. He is God of our lives in waiting, God of our lives in washing hands, God of our lives in homeschooling, God of our lives in endless Zoom calls, God of our lives in budget-cutting, God of our lives in scrimping and saving, God of our lives in tending the sick, God of our lives in waving from a distance, God of our lives in doubt, God of our lives in certainty, God of our lives in grief, God of our lives in peace.
The Day Will Come Again
The day will come when we will gather together again, just as the day will come when the deep that pulled me under during a season of sadness will wash me back up onto the shore. The day will come when we will worship in joy, rather than worship in desperation and need. We look forward to that.
God is Lord of our days—all of our days. And we will yet praise Him.