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When Worship Doesn’t Make Sense

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Every year – from around the time of my birthday (January 19) until January 23rd – I have a large group of well-intended people who check on my well being.  They do so out of love because of a series of events that took place in 2013.  My mother took an unexpected decline in health after aspirating on food – turning into a dangerous pneumonia.  That caused her to be life-flighted and then quickly placed into ICU.  That was on the 21st of January.  On the 23rd it was clear that her breathing and quality of life was only being provided by life support – and we made the bitter-sweet decision to remove life support – and my dear sweet mother left this world.

I can remember the decision to return to church after the funeral and assuring my lead pastor at the time that I needed to be leading worship.   It wasn’t that I needed to grieve…I was grieving.  To the world – worshiping wouldn’t make sense – hadn’t my God just taken my 58 year old mother?  I knew that my God was sovereign, however.  I couldn’t help but worship Him.  It was part of my grieving…and rejoicing.

I want to share with you an article by a friend of mine from Middle Tennessee, Art Kelly.  Art is the founder of a great site called SoulStuck.com .  Listen to his raw story of personal worship and learn why you should worship…even when worship doesn’t make sense.

 

When Worship Doesn’t Make Sense

 

“Either your fear will cripple your worship,

or your worship will cripple your fear.”

Louie Giglio

Just yesterday I had the privilege of sitting down with a friend and praying over her home, her family, and her body as she is in the fight of her life with breast cancer.   This sweet family has known struggle as she, a single mom, has spent her life working hard to provide for and raise two children on her own.

As we left their home and traveled back to our home here in Tennessee, I couldn’t help but continue to pray for her and her family as I thought about all that must be going through her heart and mind as she deals with this disease and its repercussions.

Facing chemotherapy (several rounds of it) and the reality of living life with cancer must be a tremendously difficult thing. She is already feeling the effects of the chemo as everyday her hair continues to fall out more and more. I wished we could have stayed just so my wife could be there to help her shave her head and help her learn how to wear the scarves and wigs that she would have to present to the world as she let her loved ones and co-workers know that she is dealing with cancer.

Fear and uncertainty loom large as we wait to see how this battle will go.

Forward in the dark

All of life is a mystery. We all walk into the future with a certain level of uncertainty. Uncertainty, of course, reveals our lack of power over our circumstances. We can manipulate things and people and even some events to our liking, but eventually we will come face to face with the simple truth of it all:

We are not in control.

In my own life, I have dealt with a significant amount of depression. Loss of perspective due to difficult circumstances has often crippled my ability to see anything but loss, failure, and disappointment in my life.

A few years ago, in 2008, my family and I went through the most difficult experience of our lives. I was out of work, my wife was pregnant with twins, my mother had been just diagnosed with leukemia, and we were several months behind on our mortgage. In the middle of this, we lost the twins halfway through the pregnancy.

It was like God was completely absent. We felt completely alone with no one to walk beside us or offer help to make it through. There was one lady though, who came to the hospital on the day my wife was induced to deliver our two infant daughters. She stayed in a room next to us while she went through the procedure and just prayed.

Her presence with us in that moment was like God’s little reminder that even though we were going through the most difficult time in our life, He was still there. He was still a part of the process. And He still cared.

After that, we came home, and continued living through the hardship.

But in the midst of that suffering, I remember very distinctly the importance of leaning heavily on the Lord. My wife had written a verse of scripture on the wall of the delivery room in the hospital that reminded her of God’s presence during this difficult time. Holding her to the ground, anchoring her soul through tough times, was the Word of God.   We both leaned heavily on the truth we knew about who God was in the midst of the storm as revealed in the Bible.

It was also during that time of my life that I learned how to truly worship.

It seems counter-intuitive to think of worshipping God in the midst of tragedy or suffering. Our sinful human nature immediately desires retribution and we raise our fist to God, cursing the heavens and asking “WHY?”.

But in the middle of the pain and the sting of suffering, our hearts are reminded of the finite position of our frail human lives here on earth. We struggle to find words that will make sense of our pain. And all of our manipulation and grappling comes to an end.

We are at the end of our rope and we realize, perhaps for the first time in our lives that it is not we who are holding on to life, but it is God who is holding on to us.

Worshipping God, during these times, reminds us of three things.

 

  1. Our Frailty. As strong as we can be at different times in our lives, we are still weak. We don’t have the ability, in and of ourselves, to fight off terminal illness, suffering, or pain. We can dig in, endure, and even work hard on getting our bodies into shape, but ultimately, the healing we seek doesn’t come from our own ingenuity.       It can only come from Jesus.
  2. Our Idol of Choice. It has been said that all humans worship. The only difference between us all is what or Who we choose to worship. We all have our idols of choice. Some of us have tangible gods we worship like money, celebrity, sexual pleasure, and material possessions. But these are often just external things that keep us from seeing the internal idols we truly worship. Our real problem lies with our desire for power (control), comfort (security & convenience), and approval (the applause of humanity). When we worship what is authentic rather than the counterfeit, it brings awareness to us that our hearts are bowing to something other than the one true God.
  3. Our Source of Healing. On my drive home yesterday, I was listening to a message by Louie Giglio, pastor of Passion City Church. He made a statement that I believe is critical to our understanding of worship. “Either your fear will cripple your worship, or your worship will cripple your fear.” Whether we want to believe it or not, the continual, committed, fervent worship of a child of God will always bring healing to our souls, whether or not we find physical healing from our pain. God is the source of all healing, physical or spiritual. It would do us all well to appeal to him when we are in need of it.

God is in the business of bringing our hearts back to him and He will do whatever it takes to accomplish this in our lives. From a limited, temporal, human perspective, it really doesn’t make sense to worship. We have our lives to live here on earth. Pain and suffering, terminal illness and loss don’t seem to fit within our frame of thinking about how life should work.

But if we could just catch a glimpse of the true nature of our own reality, the eternal perspective of our little lives on earth, and the magnificent glory of our great and awesome Creator…it really doesn’t make sense to not worship Jesus every day of our lives here on earth.

What we deal with here on earth is not what God desires for us ultimately. These horrible things are not the end game for God… but more often than not, they bring us into a closer, more intimate understanding of the goodness of God in the midst of them.

I won’t pretend to know all the reasons why bad things happen to good people. But I do know this. When God opens your eyes to the reality of who He is, all you can do is worship Him. Why not begin with worship on the front end of your pain?

It’s the only thing that makes sense when the whole world falls apart.

 

About the author:

artkellyArt Kelly lives in Murfreesboro, Tn with his wife, Rebecca and their four kids. He works with special education students at a local elementary school there in Middle Tennessee and can be found writing at www.soulstuck.com every day.

He is currently accepting invitations to speak to about how to put the soul back into your business or non-profit organization. To find his current availability, email him at art@soulstuck.com

 

3 thoughts on “When Worship Doesn’t Make Sense”

  1. Josiah says:

    Hi Jason! I just had a quick question, not particularly in regards to this article, but revolving around worship leading in general. It’s not a thought-out topic either, but I know many worship leaders choose to lead with an acoustic (or electric) guitar, and then some choose to just sing and lead. However, in the next few years I will be taking steps to becoming a worship leader, and although I know how to play acoustic guitar, my passion and talent God has given me lies with the keyboard. What are your opinions about a future worship pastor who leads worship behind a keyboard? Can it even be done?

    1. Jason Whitehorn says:

      Josiah,

      I think your question is a great one. To be honest – a worship pastor can lead with an accordion, harmonica, keyboard, guitar…anything. I don’t say that to diminish what he or she does with musical abilities. I say it because THE most important attributes of a worship pastor are displayed by what he or she does OFF of the stage. I’d rather take a worship pastor who can equip a person to lead on stage as a worship leader…but can personally invest in the lives of the worship team week after week and disciple them than I would a guy who can play the ivory off of a piano or the strings off a guitar.

      Yes, musical talent is important. David talks in the scriptures of playing with “heart” and “skill”. We should do so with both as well.

      I don’t, at all, wish to diminish your question. “Yes”, you can lead effectively with keys. Ive seen it done at plenty of churches. I also have a tremendous friend who was once in your shoes but moving to a church that was more guitar driven. He taught himself to play guitar…and you would never know by watching him today that his first love isn’t guitar. If you were a part of his church or worship team…you would know that he is a worship pastor, however. The instrument isn’t near as important as the pastor behind it. 😉

      Hope that helps!

      1. Josiah says:

        Yes that definitely helps, I actually really needed to hear that. There’s truths about your answer that I’ve known in a sense, but doubts in my mind have kind of shadowed it, so when I started researching more about worship pastors and keyboards, I came across you, so thank you. You don’t know how much of a difference a simple answer will have on me. My heart is for the Lord, and my passion for Him is set and driven, but Satan has his ways of putting even the slightest doubt in my mind. Hearing it from someone else really helped. Thanks again!

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