Years ago, I was part of a group of mothers who met together once a month to have an evening away from family, have fun, and talk about life. All of the women were Christian, not all were Mormon. Often we would come up with a discussion topic for the evening to help us get to know one another better and get through life better. When discussing how to get through a problem with children or get through a tough personal moment, one of the non-Mormon women would always talk about her relationship with Jesus Christ and how she leaned on Him for support. She also praised Him when she could see His hand in her life. Inevitably, every time this happened, I was filled with a little bit of guilt, because my answers and thoughts had gone to other places, like leaning on my husband or friends, or praising others for their help in my life. Over the ensuing years that this woman and I have been friends, she has taught me about the power of praising God and continually looking for His goodness in my life.
Deborah is an example of a woman who looks to the Lord and praises him when she sees His hand in her life. Her narrative starts as the Lord inspires her, as a prophetess and judge, to guide Barak to fight the Canaanites. Barak asks her to go with the army. She does and is pivotal to their success in battle. When the armies are feeling afraid, Deborah is the one who cries the rallying cry of, “Up; for this is the day in which the Lord hath delivered Sisera into thine hand: is not the Lord gone out before thee?” (Judges 4:14). The army sets out, wins the battle, and eventually, Sisera is killed with the help of Jael (another woman who is not an Israelite).
Judges chapter 5 is a song of praise and storytelling for Deborah and Barak to sing together. I imagine this is like being at a family reunion listening to people retelling stories of growing, being together, and important moments. But not only are Deborah and Barak retelling the story, they are praising the Lord for His goodness. In verse 3, they call everyone to pay attention, “Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes; I, even I, will sing unto the Lord; I will sing praise to the Lord God of Israel.” They continue their story and at the end of the retelling. they praise the Lord once more. “So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might” (Verse 31).
There is something about the word praise that brings happiness. I can’t think of ways to praise that don’t involve joy. Adding praise of God and others to our lives can make us feel better. Occasionally, my seven-year-old daughter will have moments where she gets in a downward spiral and when one thing goes wrong, the whole world quickly goes wrong. To get her out of this downward track, I’ve been making her say five good things about her day. I’m not always sure she’s seeing the results in her life, but she’s learned enough to know that this habit is generally good for everyone.
This evening, I was at the end of my rope with my three-year-old. She had dumped shampoo all over the floor, eaten a bunch of vitamins, and then thrown up the vitamins (which poison control said might happen). I was starting to get really frustrated when my seven-year-old reminded me to say five nice things. It was a good reminder. When thinking of all the good and positive about my youngest daughter, I wasn’t so overwhelmed with the hard moments. When we are praising and looking for the good around us negativity disappears. This is why God gives us the commandments to be grateful and praise Him. He knows when we look for the good and are grateful our lives are put into better focus where the battles aren’t as hard because He is on our side.