The tune is 60’s-folk and more old-school than retro-cool. But it is embedded in my memory and comes to my rescue on days when I wake up under a load of problems and can’t see my way out. Personal problems are bad enough. But now it seems our government is being pulled apart and polarization and scandal are shaking the Church. God, where are you? I find myself crying out. Lord, have mercy!
Anyway, I woke up in a gray funk this morning and the song pushed its way into my mind:
God loves a cheerful giver / give it all you’ve got.
He loves to hear you laughing / when you’re in an awful spot . . .
I can hear the Sisters singing it, see them playing their guitars.
. . . When the odds add up against you / it’s time to laugh and sing;
Praise God, / to praise him is a joyous thing!
If I can’t praise God in the hard times, I tell myself, how will I remember to praise him in the good?
We like to think of praise and thanksgiving as responses, mainly, when things go well. But in fact, praise and thanksgiving are powerful instruments of joy and effective weapons against the dark.
In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33, RSVCE)
Jesus didn’t say to “be of good cheer” when things go well, but in tribulation. When things are falling apart. Why? Because he has the last word. He has overcome the world. Already. We may have to wade through some of the fallout, but it’s bright on the other side.
The joy and peace that comes from God is a deep river that flows underneath and sustains us, even through the rapids, over the rocks, and during times of drought. It co-exists with tears and pain and helps us see through them. It sets our sights on God’s faithful love and promises that all will be well. The key to unlocking joy is gratitude and praise.
I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise will continually be in my mouth. . . .
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the Lord and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:1,3,4)
The psalms teach us how to turn our problems to praise, and they give us the words with which to praise, that turn our hearts to God and help us “laugh and sing” in those “awful spots.” I’m not saying it’s easy. But I look out at what else is on offer from the world, and all I see is rage and self-pity and depression and “solutions” like drugs or sex or loud and violent protest.
Those don’t resonate with me.
I remember the simple joy of those singing nuns. I find myself needing that joy as I watch the news and fear what might come next. I need a discipline to help me turn to God and praise, to keep his merciful love and power before me and hold me steady if the world continues to shake.
Over the next weeks, I will be diving into different ways to do that; in particular, by praying the psalms. I invite you to journey with me and would love to hear back from you along the way.
Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
God bless you as you enter into his word!
© 2018 Sarah Christmyer.
 “God Loves a Cheerful Giver,” the grammy-winning “Joy is Like the Rain,” and other such songs were written by Sister Miriam Therese Winter and recorded by the Medical Mission Sisters of Philadelphia. Sister Miriam Therese was one of the first to introduce folk music into our Catholic liturgical tradition. That her album was played in my house enough to burn the songs on my memory shows that she influenced Protestant praise and worship, as well!