Dave reminded us this morning that love is an action, not a feeling; a verb, not a noun. We choose to love. Recently, we’ve celebrated a wedding at church and it’s easy to focus on the ‘in love’ feelings associated with a wedding, but we have been at pains to remind all involved that a wedding is great, but what makes a marriage last is the daily choice to love. When the feelings fade (or at least lose their fervour, which C. S. Lewis reminds us is normal and to be expected), that doesn’t mean love is lost; it simply means that it has the opportunity to grow through our daily choices to demonstrate love in action.

Choosing to obey God is crucial to our spiritual growth. It’s easy to love God in the first flush of our salvation, but that love has to mature in the wilderness and in the furnace. It’s the same with all aspects of our growth. It’s easy to praise God and celebrate when all is going well and we are seeing answers to prayer beyond our wildest dreams. But we are called to praise and celebrate even when it’s a sacrifice: Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.‘ (Heb 13:15)

Rend Collective’s new album ‘As Family We Go’ has two extremely catchy songs of worship and celebration. The first, the opening track, is simply called ‘Celebrate. It’s easy to be caught up in the exuberance and bounce of the melody, but it’s worth pondering the lyrics as they, in Psalm 150 style, urge us to praise the Lord at all times:

‘Praise Him in the morning, praise Him in the evening.
Praise Him when you’re smiling, praise Him when you’re breaking.
Praise Him in the sun and praise Him in the starlight.
Praise Him every season, praise Him through the dark times.

Celebrate, celebrate
Shout it from the mountaintops
Celebrate, celebrate
Even with a broken heart
Till dawn awakes, we’ll sing Your praise, dancing in the dark,
For all our days our song will say, “Lord how great You are!”‘ (‘Celebrate’, Rend Collective)

The other song is entitled ‘Joy of the Lord’ (taken from Neh 8:10) and again, its lyrics echo the fact that some of the greatest praise arises through tears and uncertainty:

Though the tears may fall, my song will rise,
My song will rise to You.
Though my heart may fail, my song will rise,
My song will rise to You.
While there’s breath in my lungs,
I will praise you Lord

In the dead of night, I’ll lift my eyes,
I’ll lift my eyes to You.
Though the waters rise, I’ll lift my eyes,
I’ll lift my eyes to You.
While there’s hope in this heart,
I will praise You, Lord.

The joy of the Lord is my strength;
The joy of the Lord is my strength;
In the darkness I’ll dance;
In the shadows I’ll sing;
The joy of the Lord is my strength.

When I cannot see You with my eyes,
Let faith arise to You.
When I cannot feel Your hand in mine,
Let faith arise to You.
God of mercy and love,
I will praise You, Lord.’ (‘Joy Of The Lord’, Rend Collective)

Whatever our circumstances, we can choose how we respond; choosing to praise God acknowledges His love and sovereignty, no matter how we may feel at the time.