As I studied the Poetic Books in the Old Testament this year, I gained a greater appreciation for what it means to praise God. I was also reminded of the importance of letting go of temporary things and focusing on the eternal. Expanding our perspective can help us better understand God, which enables us to move forward with confidence.
So many of the psalms are invitations to praise God. As I thought about that invitation, I’ve realized that most of my prayers are pleadings, and the remainder are expressions of gratitude for specific blessings. I think praising is something more expansive. I think that we need to express joy and love to God. Here are some principles from the book of Psalms that have helped me learn to praise God more fully:
- Everyone benefits from the Savior’s light. We all have reason to rejoice: All the Ends of the Earth.
- We can praise God collectively, but the choice to participate is an individual one: “O, My Soul”.
- We can feel joy for future events that we are certain will happen: The King of Glory Shall Come In.
- Interacting with God’s creations can fill us with awe and wonder: When I Consider Thy Heavens.
- As we embrace our identity as children of God, we feel a closer connection with His other creations: All Creatures.
- The gospel can bring pure joy into our lives if we will just get out of our own way and let it happen: O Be Joyful.
I can be a hoarder. I sometimes have a hard time getting rid of junk to simplify my living and working environment. I also hang onto emotional baggage, whether it be the frustration of failure or the excitement of success. Pondering Job’s experience has reinforced in my mind the importance of letting temporary things go: adapting to new circumstances, setting aside things that are not relevant to the task at hand, and moving on from bad experiences. Ecclesiastes reminded me to be a giver, to invest time and energy in worthwhile projects even when I have little control over the outcomes. And both Job and Ecclesiastes reminded me that timing is important. Good works occur in a context, and I need to calibrate my activities to my current circumstances and my acts of service to the current needs of the people around me.
A Firm Foundation
If we want to understand God better, we need to expand our perspective and remember that God’s purposes stretch beyond our mortal lifetime. Job’s journey to become more trusting is a model for us to follow as we face adversity in our lives. Sacred spaces can help us connect with God and see things more clearly.
Sometimes, though, our own perspective is intentionally constrained. We may only be able to see the next step we should take. Faith in God enables us to take that step, trusting that He will light the way ahead of us as we move forward.
I also was able to better understand the fear of the Lord, an important theme in the book of Proverbs. This fear does not induce panic, but it does motivate positive action. Trusting in the Lord and centering our lives on Him enables us to build on a solid foundation and to invite His protecting influence into our lives.