“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
God is great—even when life is not. Worshiping Jesus in the valleys of life is the key to transformation!
Most people want to worship Jesus on the “mountain tops” of life, but worshiping “faithfully” includes so much more. Since worship is how I relate to God, worshiping Jesus happens in the hard days just as much as in the easy days. In fact, worshiping in the hard days of life is where the most powerful worship and most eternal changes happen in my life. When I learn to seek, savor, and serve Jesus in the most painful parts of my life, I begin to know the true greatness of God and begin to love Him for who He is, not what He does for me. Worshiping God in my pain is where my selfishness dies and everything about me “bends” to become like Him who has overcome the world.
If I could give my children one attribute as the key to life, it would be this: learn to truly worship Jesus when life is hard. Why? Because if they can learn to keep relating to Jesus rightly in the stressful and disappointing moments in life, nothing will ever defeat them! What the enemy means for evil would just turn out to be one more way my children become more like Christ. God would use the hard times to develop their character and increase their wisdom so they can overcome every challenge of this earthly life.
When I was in college, my heart ached to find that special someone who would one day be my wife. During that same time, God put it on my heart to use my free time to serve at a local youth group. As a college student, I could have spent my time hanging out with friends or finding a party. That would have been a way to try to find that special someone or at least fill my emptiness with some temporary pleasures. Instead of doing those things, God called me to be a Christian “big brother” to teenagers and spend my extra time pressing in to knowing Him. I remember always being torn about my decision to focus on God rather than focusing on romance. While serving at the church, I saw God do great things in the lives of other people, yet returned to my dorm room feeling lonely.
As I ponder those days, one activity stands out as the hallmark of that era of my life: time at the altar worshiping God. Every Sunday night, our church would finish the service with worship and an altar call. No matter what the altar call was for, I would go forward and spend time alone with God as our church worshiped and forgot about the clock. I can’t tell you how many times I poured out my heart, my pain, and my desires to God.
Those altar times always had the same pattern. I usually went to the altar in response to the sermon where God spoke to a need in my heart. I would express my appreciation for the Word and tell Him about my problems or loneliness. Time after time, something amazing would happen. By getting honest about what was really in my heart, God would start getting really “honest” with me about how much He loved me and about the good plans He had in store for me. I can’t totally describe it, except to say that the Holy Spirit would begin to just fill me with His love and peace. I would spend the last part of the altar time just basking in God’s amazing love for me. Usually, I left the altar with an incredible peace—even though I did not have any immediate or practical answers for my needs.
I look back at those times and realize what God was doing. Those deeply personal times with God were His way of bending and shaping me to be the person who was capable and worthy of loving my future wife. I’d ask God to help me find my future wife while God had already “found” her and was using that time to shape me to be the perfect fit for her. God was taking my worship, in the midst of my pain, and transforming me. As a result of my pain, I experienced an openness that allowed God to shape the inner depths of my being. Only by worshiping God in my pain was God able to touch that deep place in my heart and make me the man I needed to be for my future wife.
In the Book of Psalms, the Old Testament “worship hymnbook,” the largest category of psalms is the lament. That’s right! The most common type of worship found in the Psalms came as a result of difficult circumstances. These are worship times when people express to God their pain, frustration, anger, fear, and weariness with an attitude of trust. They choose to worship God even though they don’t understand the why, when, and how of what God is doing through their difficult circumstances. So, why does God make sure this type of worship is the most common in the Psalms? Answer: because it’s the most valuable and transforming worship.
When we turn TO God with our pain or fear, we honor Him. Most people turn AWAY from God when they are hurting. They feel like pain and worship are opposites. Pain often makes us upset and we think, “Why should I worship God when He is leaving this pain in my life?” Yet, that is the exact time and way to BEND! When you feel this pain, it is the very moment when worship is most important! These are the moments when real transformation and real healing can happen. Worshiping in the midst of your pain is the very place God gently and consistently prepares you to receive His greatest answers and plans for your life. Worshiping in the midst of your pain is the very possible step that will lead to the impossible promises of God coming true in your life.
So, express your pain TO God. It will cause you to see God for who He is and keep your heart from growing bitter and hard. Here is a secret most people don’t understand about their hearts: “What you don’t lament, turns to cement.” If you don’t give your pain to God, you’ll hold onto your pain like a god! So, bring your pain to Him in worship and ask Jesus to be the center of that place.
Making Jesus the Center of Friday
God’s Promise to Remember: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5-6).
God’s Power to Pray For: Holy Spirit, you know my pain and my hopes. Today, my mind and emotions want to do so much to grow hard or find my own sinful answers, but I know that if I seek after You first, I will get so much more than temporary answers. Jesus, this morning, I worship You more than the pain in my life. As I write down these places of pain, please heal them and also overshadow them with your greatness …
God’s Person to Share With: Share with your prayer partner what stood out to you in this devotion about worshiping God in your pain? What does God seem to be saying to you? When you are in pain, one of the important ways to follow through on your worship to God is to find a fellow Christian who is mature. Sharing your pain with this person helps you keep God’s perspective on that area of life and allows God’s grace and truth to come to you in ways you may not be able to hear by yourself.