The Wisdom of Praise

Psalm 150

Psalm 150 provides the concluding six verses to the wonderful Book of Psalms.  The clear message in this psalm is a call to us to praise God.  Indeed, 13 times in these six verses we are instructed to lift up our praise to God.

Why?  Why is there such an emphasis on praise in this psalm?

The Book of Psalms begins with the description of the person whose life is “blessed” (contented, satisfied, or joy-filled).  The Book of Psalms ends with the repeated call to us to praise God.  This is no mere coincidence.  There is a vital connection between a lifestyle of praise and a life of contentment and joy.

Dr. Brené Brown, who writes extensively on the subjects of shame, vulnerability, and wholehearted living, discusses the difficulty we have in embracing joy in our lives.  She speaks of “foreboding joy” as that sense of fear or apprehension whenever we start to feel happy in life that something bad is certain to come along and ruin it all.  She suggests that we live in the illusion that there is only so much joy available in life, so if we are experiencing joy now, bad things are soon to follow.  As a result of this kind of thinking, we rob ourselves of actually embracing and enjoying joy.

But there is a remedy!  The antidote to foreboding joy is gratitude!

In her research, Dr. Brené Brown claims that what leads to lasting joy rather than foreboding joy are “tangible gratitude practices.”  She writes, “The research participants…gave specific examples of gratitude practices that included everything from keeping gratitude journals and gratitude jars to implementing family gratitude rituals.”

This is where Psalm 1 and Psalm 150 are knitted together.  The “tangible gratitude practice” of praising God (Psalm 150) helps to produce blessedness/contentedness in life (Psalm 1).  Dr. Brené Brown argues that these “tangible gratitude practices” work because “every time we allow ourselves to lean into joy and give in to those moments, we build resilience and we cultivate hope.  The joy becomes part of who we are, and when bad things happen—and they do happen—we are stronger.”

In her book, Acedia & Me, Kathleen Norris adds, “It is by means of repeating ordinary rituals and routines that we enhance the relationships that nourish and sustain us.  A recent study that monitored the daily habits of couples in order to determine what produced good and stable marriages revealed that only one activity made a consistent difference, and that was the embracing of one’s spouse at the beginning and end of each day.  Most surprising to Paul Bosch, who wrote an article about the study, was that ‘it didn’t seem to matter whether or not in that moment the partners were fully engaged or even sincere!  Just a perfunctory peck on the cheek was enough to make a difference in the quality of the relationship.’  Bosch comments, wisely, that this ‘should not surprise churchgoers.  Whatever you do repeatedly has the power to shape you, has the power to make you over into a different person—even if you’re not totally “engaged” in every minute.’” (p. 187-188)

The “tangible gratitude practice” of praising God helps us to “enhance” our relationship with God and results in blessedness/contentedness/joy in our lives.

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