How do you praise God when your plans keep disintegrating?

by Editor on April 23, 2020

by Alyson Rockhold

At the end of last year, my husband and I found ourselves unexpectedly back in the U.S. Our missions agency was in the middle of transferring us from Zambia to South Sudan when instability in the region forced us back home. We had left friends in Zambia believing God was leading us to a new country: had we misunderstood? During this time of uncertainty, I struggled with sadness over the death of our great plans. I wrestled mightily with being so reliant on family and friends to provide for us as we found ourselves without a home, a job or even a whiff of a timeline for moving forward. 

During church one Sunday, I realized that my mouth was forming the words of a praise song but inwardly I was singing a lament. Each word of praise I tried to force out of my mouth tasted like chalk: a dry, anemic thing with little belief behind it. I knew the sadness itself wasn’t the problem, because God has given us the full range of emotions and wants us to bring him out hurts and concerns. However, I had let my lament become so big in my mind that I had forgotten that God is bigger. 

That night I searched the internet for praise resources and stumbled upon a PDF entitled 31 Days of Praise. Each day included an attribute of God and  a short prayer. I started right away. Over that first month, I saw my vocabulary of praise strengthen in a way that also made my sadness and fears weaken. So I continued going through that document day by day over the last five months.

This vocabulary of praise was a lifeline for me when we eventually canceled our plans to go to South Sudan and began moving forward with a new assignment in Kenya. Reminding myself about the truth of who God is gave me the strength to continue trusting Him as we moved yet again into the unknown.  As our new plans begin to take shape, I realized we would have time to visit friends in a remote area of Tanzania before finally re-settling in Kenya. Our Tanzanian friends asked us to teach at their school while we visited. We were happy to comply! 

Little did I know that two weeks after leaving American soil, I would once again be stuck, jobless, reliant on others and have no idea when this will change. Yet, this time I feel totally different. Maybe a short overview of the last week will shed some light on why:

 

March 18: We learn that Kenya’s borders are closed for at least the next 30 days.  As a result, we are stuck in Tanzania. Also, with an unknown start date, we can no longer stay on our agency’s insurance. We scramble to find an alternative. 

           -Today’s praise: God of Peace: I praise you with all my heart  because you are the Lord my peace. You are the God of peace who will soon crush Satan under my feet.    (Based on Romans 16:20)

OK Lord, all I see around me is chaos, but I trust that you are the God of peace.

 

March 19: Tanzanian schools are closed for the next 30 days. Now we are not only stuck here, we are jobless. We finally get decent Internet access and are overwhelmed with reports about COVID19 around the world. 

            -Today’s praise: The God Who Heals: Father, I praise you because you are the God who heals your people physically, emotionally and spiritually. (Based on Exodus 15:26)

Heavenly Father, this virus is terrifying. What if it harms my family or reaches us here? Oh God, I believe you are the great healer!

 

March 20: The couple that was supposed to serve with us in Kenya has already returned to the U.S. We assess what we brought here when we planned on staying for a month (We left a big box of supplies for Kenya with friends in another city and only brought the minimum to this remote location.) Important things like cheese and chocolate got left behind and we really wish we had those now to comfort us!

          -Today’s Praise: The God of All Comfort: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Compassion and the God of All Comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3)

Father, my flesh is longing for worldly comforts. I praise you as the God whose very presence is comfort!

 

Since COVID-19 has trapped us here in Tanzania, our plans are once again moot! And yes I’ve definitely sung some laments. Yet, each time I have the truth of Scripture to re-center me and words of praise to refocus me. I can look back now and see how God used the struggles of last year to teach me how to bear with uncertainty and trust in His goodness no matter my circumstances. And I’ve discovered that praise can be the bridge between what my eyes see and what my heart knows to be true. Praise God!

Do you struggle to praise God when your circumstances aren’t exactly praiseworthy? I would love to hear what lessons God is teaching you during this challenging time. 

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Alyson has lived half of the last seven years overseas including time in Tanzania, Haiti, and Zambia. Her resume includes such diverse experiences as teaching English, assisting with C-sections and making weekly cookie deliveries to the elderly. She’s so thankful to have a grounded, wise, hilarious husband to share the adventures with.

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