Three years ago, I almost walked away from God.
I had too many questions – big questions – that I couldn’t answer and they weighed down on me like an elephant standing on my chest.
It was one of the hardest experiences I’ve ever been through; my entire life up to that point had been built on my faith: my marriage, my community, my inner thoughts… And now my foundation of faith was crumbling underneath me.
It was during this time that doubt rendered me unable to worship God. This blow struck hard because, as a former worship leader, worship had once been a huge part of my life.
But, thankfully, that wasn’t the end of my story. About a year ago, things began turning around. I found answers to important questions and God blissfully reentered my life. I still remember the first time worship came back into my life. It was such a powerful and sweet moment.
I was sitting at work, listening to an album my wife recommended to me when this old song about communing with God (“In the Garden”) came on. I literally had to stop working as the words poured over my heart like rainwater over a dry and cracked desert. It felt like God had leaned down and spoke love and affirmation directly into the deepest parts of me. It was pure, unadulterated worship.
Worship is a beautiful, transformational thing. We all need worship in our lives.
But sometimes we get worship wrong (oftentimes without even knowing it). In an effort to help you connect to God through worship, I’ve put together four things we commonly do in worship that cause us to miss God.
- We Don’t Put the Effort In
It takes energy to worship God.
The problem is that most of us don’t see it this way. We come in expecting worship to happen to us; for the lyrics or music to be so compelling that we are pulled in no matter how we’re feeling or what we’re going through that day.
We stand there waiting for God to show up when, really, he’s just on the other side of a line of hurdles, beckoning us to run forward and jump.
These hurdles look different for all of us. Maybe you’re coming into worship feeling angry or apathetic. Jumping these hurdles means summoning up the emotional energy to (at least temporarily) let go of your anger or get passed your apathy.
Or, your hurdle could be simpler, like not wanting others to hear you sing. Find your hurdles, stand up, and sprint as hard as you can towards them. Jumping over them and into communion with God will always be worth the effort.
- We Check Out Because of an Annoyance
I don’t like this song. It’s too quite in here. These lyrics are too vague.
No matter how great your church’s worship service is, there will always be these little annoyances that will tempt you to check out of worship.
Considering the energy it takes to worship coupled with our fear of becoming vulnerable in front of others and God, it’s no wonder that these little annoyances turn into a real temptation to check out. It’s much easier.
But don’t fall for the trap. You can almost always find God no matter how cheesy, incompetent, or ridiculous the people on, or off, stage are being.
- We Go Through the Motions
Remember saying the pledge of allegiance in high school, light years after you had already memorized it? I’m pretty sure 99.9% of us kids were completely checked out.
And this is exactly how we operate sometimes in worship. We just go through the motions. The reason is simple: it’s easier to check out instead of summoning the energy required to leap over our hurdles and meet God on the other side.
If you’re singing the same song (again), you may have to work at finding a new aspect about God to worship. I’ve also found that my worship changes from week to week just based on how my week went.
- We Seek the Wrong Thing
Worship can be an intensely emotional experience as anyone who has been on a church retreat can probably attest to.
That intensely positive feeling we get literally feels like an “oxycontin cocktail” to our brains, according to research. Because of this, we are sometimes tempted – without even realizing it – to seek the experience of worship rather than simply seeking to worship God.
I spent years as a worship leader trying to recreate powerful, moving worship experiences rather than trying to point others to God – though I thought the two were one and the same. So, when the auditorium wasn’t loud enough or when we didn’t pick the right songs in the set, I thought that I had missed God altogether when the reality was that God was there the whole time; I just didn’t feel as emotional during my worship.
Think of it this way: When you talk with someone close to you, should you expect it to always be the best, most emotional experience ever? Of course not! It places too much emphasis on the experience rather than on the relationship.
In the same way, we have to realize that worship times with God aren’t always going to be ridden with emotion, but that’s okay. Our goal is to worship God, not to get that intensely positive feeling we get sometimes when we worship God.
Stephen is a freelance writer who adores his wife and two children and spends his down time thinking about how to word article headlines. Stephen can be reached at StephenBWrites@gmail.com.
Stephen has guest-posted at RelevantMagazine.com, BeforetheCross.com and other sites and has been published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Georgia Restaurant Association, and other business-related venues.