"Until God Opens the Next Door, Praise Him in the Hallway"
I remember watching The Sound of Music as a little girl on television right around Easter. Yep, that was back in the pre-historic days, the days before DVDs or even VHS. The one line that always stuck with me was when Maria says, "Where the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window." This message of hope that captured me in the sincerity of Julie Andrews' voice is a message I often referred back to whenever I encountered what I thought was an opportunity lost—a door closing. It was a message that always proved to be true, where the Lord closed a door, somewhere He opened a window.
Then one day, another door closed and I headed back to my "Fraulein Maria words of comfort," and I waited, and I waited, and I waited and it seemed as though either God didn't know someone had shut the door, or He had forgotten how to open the window. So I waited, and as time passed, the lack of spotting an opening brought with it some discomfort, then some questioning, and then some down-right honest anxiety. Why wasn't Julie Andrews coming through for me this time? Was I destine to live in sadness and heartache?
Turns out, it wasn't the words of Julie Andrews I needed to rely on, it was the word of God, so I went there, and I found, "Have no anxiety about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Philippians 4:6) And I found, "For I know the plans I have or you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11) ... and I took comfort, but I still didn't see the window opening.
So what do you do when you don't see that streak of light breaking through the window to conquer the darkness? Easy, you praise God! What? Yep, you praise God. Salvation and Church history are riddled with stories of praise and thanksgiving during times of suffering and great trial. Job experienced life at its worst; David faced years of terror running from Saul; and St. Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison, yet all responded by singing praise to God.
So, how do we give praise in times of suffering? Here are three simple ways:
- Just simply pray. Every time we pray we are communicating with our Father, we are talking to Him. What father doesn't want to hear from his children in their time of need? Communication draws us into a deeper relationship. Communication in times of heartache, draws our hearts closer. Isn't that what it's all about? Our hearts being one with God? In the words of St. Augustine, "My heart is restless, O God, until it rests in Thee." And, what father's eyes don't smile when he hears words of gratitude from the mouth of his child. So just talk to Him, talk to your Father, thank Him. If you can't come up with the words, reflect on Psalm 113 and "Praise the Lord." How wonderful to turn our thoughts from our suffering to boundless hope and trust in the Lord.
- Sing a song. Yes, I know for those of you who know my singing skills, you are thinking this is anything BUT pleasing to God; but get this, my praising Him isn't so much about Him as it is about me. I don't mean that selfishly, I mean that with great humility. God doesn't need my praise, but I need to praise Him to grow closer to Him. Through song, I can be taken away to another world to reflect on His great love and mercy. Since He didn't gift me with a singing voice, but He did gift me with an iPod, I find closing my eyes and listening to Laura Story's song Blessings always gives me hope and helps me know how great He is, or How Great He Art.
- Offer it up. I know, what does the mean? It took me a long time to "get" this one. For years I heard people say that, and as I prayed I'd "offer it up," but I never felt anything. It's almost like I was thinking once I said those words, suddenly, "poof" my pain would be gone. Then one day at Mass while praying after Communion and "offering up my pain," it hit my heart. I felt it. The pain wasn't gone, but something was added—a contentment came in knowing my pain could make a difference. Ahhh, redemptive suffering. I finally got it, and even when I didn't understand, but "offered it up," it still had meaning.
So, Fraulein Maria was right, "Where the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window." The catch is, sometimes that window takes longer to open than we had hoped. It's up to us what we do while we wait. I say, do what you naturally do when you're waiting for something. Grab a good book, actually, grab the best book, grab the Bible, and listen to the words of your Father. Then, simply talk to Him. Put on some good music or sing a song of praise, because Our God is an Awesome God. And, above all, know that your suffering has meaning, and offer it up for another. (If you can't think of someone to offer it up for, you might want to do so for the person next to me when I'm waiting for my window to open and singing my songs of praise at the top of my lungs!)