One day my daughter Katherine received an unusual phone call from a business student at her college who was making a catalog of diamond rings. He had everything he needed to create his catalog — the diamonds, a studio, a camera, the lights. But he needed one more thing — a pair of hands. A friend had told him, “Katherine George has the most beautiful hands I’ve ever seen.” Well, with that recommendation, Steve phoned Katherine.
When she arrived at the studio, Steve set up his camera and lights. Then he opened his suitcase and pulled out a piece of black velvet that was to serve as a backdrop for the diamonds. After turning on his studio lights, he removed the diamonds from his case, one by one for Katherine to model.
Instructing Katherine to slowly lift her hand up off the dark background toward the light as she modeled each ring, Steve explained, “When a diamond is placed against a dark background, the darkness makes it seem more brilliant. And, when the diamond is lifted toward a light, all of its facets are revealed and allowed to sparkle. A diamond is pretty all by itself, but putting it against a black background and lifting it up to the light enhances its radiance and glory.”
Oh, my friend! What a perfect picture of joy! True spiritual joy shines brightest against the darkness of trials, tragedy, and testing! And the blacker the background, the greater the brilliance. Similarly, life’s dark struggles make Christian joy more intense and our heartfelt praise more glorious. As one writer has noted, God “setteth in pain the jewel of His joy.”
With that image in mind, I consider the sacrifice of praise a slogan that is helpful in cultivating the fruit of joy. Let me explain. When life is good, praise and thanksgiving ﬂow automatically from my heart and lips. But when life turns black, praise and thanksgiving don’t ﬂow quite so easily! Instead, I have to deliberately choose to follow God’s advice and “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Although I don’t feel like praising the Lord or thanking Him, I do what God says, and that effort makes my praise a sacrifice. When I’d rather bask in self-pity or stay stuck in my depression, choosing to look beyond my pain makes my praise to God sacrificial.
But, when I do lift such a sacrifice of praise to God out of the darkness of my trials, I ﬁnd the Spirit’s joy magnified in my life — just as lifting a diamond to the light against a black background enhances its brilliance!
I need God’s joy — I admit it! And I (and probably you as well) most need His joy when things are black. We both need joy when we’re suffering and misunderstood, when we’re rejected and hated, and when we’re in emotional or physical pain. But our sacrifice of praise to God gives the Spirit room to touch us with His joy that overshadows these circumstances.
A Prayer to Pray: Lord, You provide a peace and joy that surpasses any happiness I receive from worldly pursuits and pleasures. It is lasting and true. I give you may sacrifice of praise today…and each day to follow. You are worthy, Lord, of such obedience.