01 Jul When Worship Is Hard – Stacy Utecht
Every light was on me, and so was every eye. I was leading worship, but it took everything in me to not crumble into pieces right there on the stage. I was broken and hurting. The last thing I felt like I could do was fully engage in the presence of the Lord. I had nothing to give. Worship was hard.
Sometimes worship comes easily. There are days we come to church and our time of corporate singing is rejuvenating and it feels like God is close. And other days, we feel the exact opposite. So what should our response to worship be when we are going through something difficult, and what is God’s response to us?
1. It’s okay.
Worship is hard when we are hurting. We live in a sinful world, which means we are constantly receiving wounds from people and from circumstances outside our control. We experience deep loss: loss of loved ones, loss of pride, loss of dreams, loss of hope. We carry burdens: our own burdens and the burdens of others. We feel the brokenness of relationships and we sense that things are not as they should be. How are we supposed to love and worship a God who seems distant, unloving, or uncaring? Why does it feel like he only takes from us? Why does it seem like he withholds things from us? Why do we experience pain? The answers to these questions are distant, and we cannot bear to lift his name high. The feelings of freedom, praise, and euphoria in His presence are unimaginable. When we are walking through a time of suffering or pain, worship is the last thing on our list of things to do. But you know what I’ve learned about our lack of desire to worship in seasons of trial?
God knows you. He sees you. Your pain is not offensive to him or hard to understand. He did not design hurt, but he has been there. In the Garden of Gethsemane before he was crucified, he cried so deeply to his Father and pleaded with Him to not have to go through with it. He was not in a position of euphoric worship. He was hurting. He didn’t have peace. He was in pain.
If worship is hard for you right now because you are experiencing something difficult, it’s okay. There is grace upon grace upon grace for you. The Psalmist grieved over and over again as he uttered words that were real, raw and full of angst. God knows what your voice sounds like when you are desperate. He sees when you are weak. He is with you when you are broken.
2. He is present in your brokenness
In the story I started with, I was singing a song by Kari Jobe called “On my knees” where there is a line that says, “I will find you in the place I’m in, find you when I’m at my end, find you when there’s nothing left of me to offer you except for brokenness.” We are in a unique position when we come to worship God when we are broken. When you feel like you have nothing left to give in worship, it is actually a place of honor because it thrusts you into a place of utter dependency. The only thing God asks of you is to radically trust that he is with you, and that he has everything under his Sovereign care.
One example we see of this in Scripture is through the life of Job. Job lost absolutely everything: his property, his livestock, his family, and his health. Job was broken. There is even a full chapter in which he laments the day he was born. His friends come to sit with him and they do not speak to him for seven days because they saw that “his suffering was very great” (Job 2:13). For the entire book of Job, we see him grieve, and we watch his friends give him faulty advice. But at the end, God meets him in a whirlwind. God reminds Job that he is in control. He doesn’t tell Job that everything is going to be okay, and he doesn’t promise health and restoration. His gift to Job in that moment is his presence and the reminder of his Sovereignty.
When worship is hard, God is going to meet you right where you are. He promises that he is “near to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18) and he will “never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Even though you may feel alone, know that his Spirit is closer than your breath. He loves you, and he is with you.
3. He wants to heal you
Times of communal worship, specifically in the church, can be an incredibly healing time. James H. Aughey quotes, “The church is not a select circle of the immaculate, but a home where the outcast may come in. It is not a palace with gate attendants and challenging sentinels along the entrance-ways holding off at arm’s-length the stranger, but rather a hospital where the broken-hearted may be healed, and where all the weary and troubled may find rest and take counsel together.”
What a beautiful picture of the church and the safe haven you have when you enter its doors. The community of believers and the ability to worship together should go hand in hand. You were not made to heal in isolation. Coming to worship with the body of believers will act as a salve on your wounds.
Also, God longs to mend your broken heart. He may not fix your problems. He may not take away the pain. However, he wants to be the antidote. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). “O LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me” (Psalm 30:2). Inner healing may never come on your timetable, but we have a God who is in the business of bringing it to you, and never a minute too late.
4. It’s not about you
The hard truth when it comes to worship, even when it is hard, is that it isn’t ultimately about you. Hear this: God knows you, he loves you, and he created you. He walks with you through darkness and he holds every tear you shed. However, when we come together to worship him you may need to access the portion of your soul that worships him in truth, even when you don’t feel you can worship in spirit (John 4:24).
There is something incredibly healing about truth. It sinks deep into your heart and resonates throughout your entire being. When you commit yourself to seeing God for who He is, it will shift something in your perspective. You will be put in your rightful place, and He in His. When worship is hard, seek truth and let it build a firm foundation under your struggle. Then, release that truth back to God. While we may not understand all of his ways, he still deserves all of our praise.
My story doesn’t end with me falling to pieces while singing that Sunday morning. When I left the stage, a woman from the congregation came up to me and gave me a big, heartfelt hug. I remember feeling so cared for, even though she didn’t know the details of what I was going through. Though my problems were not all solved in that moment, I remember understanding in a tangible way that it was okay that I was struggling because God was meeting me there. When you find yourself in a similar place, may you truly understand in the deepest part of your being that it is okay that you are struggling. God is near, and he will bring you to a place of healing. And ultimately he deserves your worship…even when it’s hard.