Welcome to this installment of the Listen Close, Listen Well Series.
It is an honor to introduce you to Judy Dunagan. I met Judy a few years ago at Carol Kent’s Speak Up Conference. Judy is also an acquisitions editor for Moody Publishing. Judy has a heart to encourage women. Being around her is always a gift as she uplifts others and lovingly points them to Christ.
By: Judy Dunagan
I watched as hundreds of birds flew from behind a sun-tipped cloud. It was as though they had been waiting backstage behind the curtain, and came out to perform. They first seemed to be scrambling to find their places—like tiny ballerinas in the Nutcracker escaping from under the massive skirt.
They quickly fell in line and formed a magnificent ribbon that spanned the sky as far as I could see—with their “stage” lit up by the brilliant orange and purple paint strokes of the sunrise. I threw back my head like a five-year-old watching them dance over me until they were tiny pinpoints in the distant sky.
That early morning scene seemed to shout, “Judy, I see you!” as I began my weekend getaway with God in the Colorado mountains. My life had been hit with storms that included serious health issues for some of my loved ones and broken relationship issues with others. I was reeling, and knew I needed to seek His face like never before.
My original plan was to get some answers about suffering as I sought His voice and heart through the Scriptures. I was wrestling with some deep questions and hoped to gain a better understanding about the “why” behind the pain.
But God had different plans that weekend.
While dwelling in the songs of lament that David wrote, I noticed that he often turned to praise, even in the midst of his anguish and suffering.
This sacrifice of praise is beautifully displayed in Psalm 13:1–2, 5–6 (NIV) where David first cries out with heart-wrenching “How long, Lord?” questions, and then ends in worship and praise:
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.”
Through that psalm, God whispered to my heart, “Judy, can you thank Me even in the midst of your deep sorrow right now? Can you praise My Name even when you don’t understand My ways?”
I remember first being taken aback, almost incredulous that He would ask such a thing while I was suffering. But I sensed that I needed to be obedient and follow His leading.
My weeping and wrestling prayers turned to a sacrifice of praise in my journal that weekend. As I wrote a list of praise and thanksgiving to God, I found that my tears shifted from sorrow to adoration of Him.
I was overwhelmed by His mercy and goodness like never before.
I didn’t get answers to my questions that weekend, or even comfort that the trials would soon be over. But I came away with a deep understanding of the power of praise in the midst of suffering.
I’m not sure my prayer life has ever been the same. Oh, I still pour out my heart to Him with laments and requests, like we’re encouraged to do in Psalm 62:8. But most of the pages in my prayer journals now begin with the words “A Sacrifice of Praise” written at the top. It’s how I turn my heart and mind toward Him and enter into His presence with praise.
What about you?
What is your favorite way to offer praise and thanksgiving to Him even in the midst of the storms of this life?
Judy Dunagan served as a women’s ministry leader for twenty years before joining Moody Publishers as an acquisitions editor, overseeing the women’s line of books and discipleship resources. A wonder seeker who chases knowledge of God and His Word, Judy is passionate about discipling women and making God’s Word come alive in everyday life. Visit her blog at judydunagan.com. And check out Moody Publishers’ new line of women’s Bible studies at moodypublisherswomen.com.
Read the rest of the Listen Close, Listen Well Series:
Not Ours to Give Away by Tiffany Parry
Lean In My Daughters by Kerrington Sweeney
Listening When It’s Loud by Teri Lynne Underwood
Fear and Doorknobs by Kim Osterholzer
What God Wants by Crystal Hall
Preparing a Place by Abby Banfield
The Luxury of Listening by Ashley Hales
His Grace Isn’t Just for Today by Abby McDonald
The God Dare by Kate Battistelli
Out of Your Comfort Zone by Tracey Casciano
Got Milk? God’s Got Answers! by Christy Mobley
On Hearing God and Being Surprised by Kristin Hill Taylor
Put On Your Listening Ears by Karina Allen
Letting Go in Order to “Go” by Martha Reid
It is Over! by Jami Amerine
When Listening Leads to Obeying by Kristine Brown
Are You Praying for Revelation? by Niki Hardy
Hearing Crickets When You Pray? by Anne Watson
Serving a Stranger by Lisa Appelo
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