"I will bless the Lord at all times."
To "praise the Lord for His goodness" is comforting music in every garden of grief. If we fix our thoughts on the many blessings He gives us, we shall think less on those He withholds. If we praise Him for what He is as well as for what He gives, we shall feel more sure that the sorrows He ordains are themselves reasons for thanksgiving.
It is easier to pray than to praise; because we are more conscious of our wants than of our wealth—of our pains than of our pleasures—of the moments when the stream of enjoyment is interrupted, than of the hours during which it flows with unrippled surface. We pray for what we want more than praise for what we have. Praise belongs to a higher order of devotion than the mere asking for favors. Praise is the life of heaven, and saints on earth may share the privilege. The Bible enjoins it, the example of believers encourages it, the divine Spirit in the heart prompts it. If saints of old said, "I will sing praise to my God while I have my being," shall not we, even when most sorrowing, bless the "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus?"
We bless God "for all the blessings of this life." The psalmist roused himself to this duty, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all His benefits." How apt we are to forget! One alone of the lepers returned to thank the Healer, who noticed the omission. "Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?" If those who have been healed should praise, surely those also who have not needed healing. The mercies we receive every hour make up the largest benefactions from God, and yet these, because of the very constancy of their bestowment, are often forgotten. If I am knocked down by a carriage, and scarcely escape being crushed, I give thanks for the special providence; but should I not daily give thanks for the continual providence which preserves me, not only from such danger, but such fright?
Gratitude to the giver enhances the value of every gift. Such praise dignifies and brightens the smallest of our comforts. As these are continually bestowed, we are continually comforted in the recognition of them. Above all, we praise Him for His "inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace and for the hope of glory." This outweighs all reasons for lament. We praise Him for Himself. The pleasure which nature and science yield is increased by our perception of the power and wisdom they reveal. Above all, beholding His glory "in the face of Jesus Christ" we blend our voices with the whole Church, saying, "We praise You, we worship You, we glorify You, for Your great glory." Such stimulants to praise in all places and times are constant ministrants of comfort.
Patience under trial becomes easy while we bless the Lord who sends it. How can we be murmuring at, or distrusting Him whom we are praising? It must also needs guard us from temptations which might plunge us into greater grief than that of affliction. We cannot be breaking God's laws when engaged in God's praise. A superior homage will prevent degrading alliances. Genuine praise produces genuine gladness. The exercise and expression of gratitude are in their own nature pleasurable; how emphatically so when the object is God! When we praise "we rejoice in the Lord;" and "the joy of the Lord is our strength." The happier we are in Him, the more patient in trial, brave in difficulty, diligent in service.
But when are we to bless the Lord? David says, "I will bless the Lord at all times." But suppose our hopes are disappointed, our requests denied, has He changed? If at all times we may say "Father;" if Jesus is "the same yesterday, today, and forever;" if at all times He intercedes, and is preparing mansions for us, and if at all times the Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier and Comforter, should we not bless Him at all times? If the promise is true, "When you pass through the rivers I will be with you," in these rivers we will bless the Lord! So long as the word stands "I will never leave you nor forsake you," we will never leave off praising Him. If "all things work together for good," then in all things, painful or pleasant, we will praise Him. Daniel, when he knew that the decree was signed, "kneeled upon his knees three times a day and gave thanks before his God." Paul and Silas, in the inner prison, at midnight, "sang praises unto God." The great apostle, awaiting martyrdom, wrote from Rome, "The Lord will preserve me to His heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." God's saints, in all ages, have blessed the Lord at all times. So will we.
When not a ray lightens the path, and I know not where my next footstep may fall, in the midnight of anxiety and grief, as well as in the noontide of confidence and joy, I will bless the Lord! In the winter of fog and frost, when bitter winds of disappointment chill the heart, and the streams of consolation are frozen, and the ground is iron and the heavens lead, and the garden is without a flower and the tree without a leaf; as well as in the springtide of blossoms, and the summer of roses, and the autumn of rich harvests and fruits, I will bless the Lord. Amid the raging tempest, when lightnings gleam through the rifted clouds, and thunders make the mountains tremble, and wild waves threaten to overwhelm my frail bark; as when the sky is cloudless, and not a ripple disturbs the smoothness of the sea, I will bless the Lord. When the trumpet calls to war, and the conflict is fierce and I have to fight for very life, as well as when at the festal banquet of spiritual joy, I will bless the Lord. When death approaches, and the beloved activities of life must cease, and the familiar home be left, and those dearer than life be parted from; when heart and flesh fail, as much as in the full vigor of life, I will bless the Lord, who "gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
I'll bless the Lord at all times,