When Praise and Anger Collide
In March of this year, I read a devotional on my YouVersion app called Winning the War in Your Mind. In a section referring to Paul and Silas in prison (Acts 16:16-34), the author pointed out, “They did not praise God because He showed up; God showed up because they praised Him.” Wow! That’s profound. In their deepest and darkest hours, Paul and Silas chose gratitude for their less-than-ideal situation and then God made Himself known. Somewhere along their journey, they had learned two valuable truths: 1.) Praise and anger cannot exist in the same heart; 2.) God can be trusted. So, regardless of their circumstances, they made it a practice to be in a frame of mind that allowed God to be present.
A few years ago, following a very contentious divorce and drawn-out child-custody battle, collateral damage laid my life in shambles. I had every right to be bitter, angry, hostile. Nobody would’ve blamed me. The legal system had been anything but kind or just, and I struggled every day just to get out of bed. That’s how I came to resonate with Elijah’s pain in 1 Kings 19:10 (KJV) when his words revealed the anguish in his heart. “…they seek my life, to take it away.” OK. Maybe that’s not a literal comparison to what my personal situation looked like, but having my young children forced to live an hour away from my home, and not having transportation to travel and see them on a regular basis, certainly felt like my life being taken away.
Read what God says to Elijah when God finds Elijah hiding from his problems on Mt. Sinai in a cave. “…But the Lord said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’” 1 Kings 19: 9 (NLT). Verse 10, continues, “Elijah replied, ‘I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with You, torn down Your altars, and killed every one of Your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.’” At first, God’s question sounds innocent enough, but stop and listen closely. Do you hear the reality check taking place here? I do. God isn’t condemning Elijah for being in the cave. He’s asking Elijah to look at his situation and take inventory of his destructive thought pattern.
Fighting character assassination, slander, and lies upon lies, inside and outside of court, I played the role of victim in my own story. It became as natural as breathing after my divorce, and I struggled not to shrink away into my fear and despair. Thankfully, God inspired a friend to contact me from halfway across the country, giving me a similar reality check to that of Elijah. Her words went something like this:
“Lori, I hate seeing you hurt. Sure, you can stay mad.
You can fight until you’re blue in the face. That’s your right.
No one is saying you haven’t been wronged. You most certainly have.
But I want you to stop and be real with yourself.
Where is your anger getting you? How is it helping you any?”
Up until this point, overwhelming grief had saturated every fiber of my being, and I had taken time digging a deep pit of sadness. Truth be told, my anger comforted me. It allowed familiarity and something I could control—no matter how ruinous to my overall well being. But, my friend wanted better for me, so she spoke up:
“I don’t know what to do to help you, so I’ve been talking to God about it;
and I think I’ve come up with a solution. It’s really quite simple.
I laughed at her enthusiasm. I applauded her conviction. Yet, I wondered about the simplicity of her suggestion. I listened as she continued,
“You know praise is one of the heart’s ways of praying, right?
And you know the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, right?
[1 Thessalonians 5:17] Well, there’s a reason for that.
Lori, the name of Jesus is very powerful. The devil can’t stand at His name.
The mere mention of it is enough to make Satan flee.
So, whenever you start to feel that anger building up inside you, start singing—
and not just any song, praise songs. You cannot stay mad
at God if you’re praising Him. The two feelings simply cannot coexist.
I guarantee it. Try it.”
So, I did. And, you know what? Praise is the antidote for anger. You cannot curse God and hold a grudge when you’re singing about How wonderful He is. It just isn’t possible.
I’ve listed a few songs below that have helped reverence my heart over the years and have also reminded me of Who God is.
- “Greater” by MercyMe
- “Worthy the Lamb” by Gaither Vocal Band
- “I Found It All” by The Collingsworth Family
- “Graves into Gardens” by Elevation
- “Rise” by Danny Gokey
- “How Great His Heart Must Be” by Billy & Sarah Gaines
- “Through It All” by The Booth Brothers
- “Home, Where I Belong” by The Kress Trio or Mark Lowry
- “Jesus Loves Me” (childhood favorite)
- “I Surrender All” by Heritage Singers
You can use whatever songs help you honor and praise Jesus in the face of adversity. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate God’s redemptive power and freedom over sin. You’re not stuck. The next time those dark clouds come rolling in, let me encourage you to be like Paul and Silas. Remember: praise and anger cannot exist in the same heart, and God can be trusted. So, please join me. Let’s sing!