As a veteran worship pastor of many years, it has always been my joy and privilege to lead others through a journey of Christ-centered worship in song (and other art forms) every week. Encountering God through creative corporate worship affords us the opportunity to praise and adore, confess and receive forgiveness, and to embrace grace, while reminding us of who we are and who He is (and we are not Him), humbling us and causing our souls to be filled with His power and presence anew. Corporate worship allows us to experience the power and community of worship]ping together as one body, lifting our hearts and voices as one to the Almighty God and Savior Jesus Christ. It reminds us of God’s big story for mankind, His plan of salvation and our future hope as believers. Corporate worship should create an atmosphere where our hearts and minds collide; each reminding the other of God’s passionate love for us and the courage to live it out.
But what if your soul is in despair and you cannot sing, much less worship?
I personally have been through these seasons, yes, even as a worship pastor! I have been passionate about worship for as long as I can remember and as a musician, I tend to express my heart best through music. There have been times in my ministry however, when my heart was so battered and fragile, I only had the emotional energy to barely stand upright. I recall one particular Sunday when, the night before service, I had taken part in leading a funeral for a mother and child lost through a senseless murder/suicide. Another weekend (not long after) was spent burying a teenager in his prime, lost through cancer. Other periods in the thick of ministry were matters of personal devastation, bringing with it great loss, sadness and acute exhaustion. There were times when I’ve had to hold on to this truth for dear life: In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56:4
There have been seasons when it has felt as if I have no song—no music—to give. When life gets truly raw and it seems to us that God is silent, it can seem impossible to voice our praise. Even when we may know in our heads it is an act of faith, we are often still so broken on the inside that we cannot find our voice.
I’d like to encourage you, friend, to embrace this great news: God understands our hearts immeasurably more than we do, and in His great mercy, the Spirit does the work on our behalf. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8: 26.
Sometimes the very best we can manage is to simply sit in His presence in silence, allowing the words of truth being sung around us to soak deep into our souls. There is healing in this. It’s okay to whisper your words of worship when you cannot sing, or mouth words of praise when you are too drained to carry a tune. It is pleasing to God when offering your tears of grief, brokenness and fear, humbly accepting His loving sovereignty over your life. It is more than acceptable to simply open your hands on your lap, offering all you carry to the Lord.
God doesn’t look on the outward appearance like others; He peers into your heart and sees you right where you are. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. I Samuel 16:7 Even when others are in a hurry for you to appear at peace, desperate for you to feel better (or at least act as if you are so they can feel better), our Savior is actively working behind the scenes for your good. Don’t worry about the others and what they may think. Worshiping in truth requires gut-wrenching honesty, and dare I say it, difficult questions. He can handle it! God sees you, He knows you and He desperately loves you no matter what.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Dear friend, when you find yourself in a season of brokenness and pain, I encourage you to resist shying away from corporate worship. It is a real temptation to run and hide! Rather, come as you are. Offer up your body, mind and spirit to the Healer of Souls in Spirit and in Truth, for this is the kind of worship God delights in. Be you—right here and right now. His shoulders are big, His burden light, and He is singing over you.
Michelle Marx is a regular contributor to Soul Care Collective.