Worship: Experiencing God When it Feels Like He's Not
do you do when you know you're supposed to worship and
yet you feel like something is missing...and that
something is God? You sing to an empty room. You pray to
the ceiling tiles. You sacrifice praise -- to nothing.
Your silent moments are met by silent moments instead of
that still, small voice that once reminded you that He
If you're like me, the response to this is a
virtual sword fight between cognitive and emotional.
Your internal monologue is more of a dialogue as you
bounce back and forth between fact and feeling. God is
everywhere... but He's not here. God has a plan for my
life...but He's keeping it a secret. God loves me... but
He's ignoring me.
And this has been going on for a long
time. What's wrong? What am I doing wrong? Have you
spent time in this place?
I find that many Christians
experience this to some degree. The sensory absence of
the divine is no new feeling. Take Psalm 30, for
example. Here you've got David saying things at the
beginning of the Psalm like "I will praise you,
Lord, for you have rescued me." I would bet that
David felt rescued, so he probably felt like praising
God. Not hard to imagine. The other idea in this Psalm
-- an expression sandwiched between the praises -- is
raw, emotional, and painful. David says in verse 8&
9 "I cried out to you, O Lord. I begged the Lord
for mercy, saying 'What will you gain if I die?'"
The only thing that would lead a guy like me to say
something like that would be a sense that God may not
rescue me, may not have mercy on me, and may choose to
let my life end. It's like David is saying two things at
the same time. Fact: God saved me. Feeling: But He's
A few things we can draw from this:
all, as we've already mentioned, the feeling of God's
non-presence is not new. David experienced it. So did
Job. This is the authenticity of a relationship that
moves, changes and lives. If we're honestly seeking God,
variations should not suprise us.
Secondly, there is a
biblical explanation to suffering that applies here.
After all, wouldn't you say that the worst thing we
could suffer is being away from God? If we feel like
we're suffering, it's important to know that suffering
is actually a good thing because it leads to perseverance. This leads to character and hope, not to
mention a powerful testimony that might actually change
someone else's life.
Lastly...feelings can't be the
barometer of our faith. While they often lead us to seek
God with more intention, there's no doubt that a loss of
the warm fuzzes can actually help solidify the facts in
our hearts and minds. We can say "yes, I have felt
distant from God before, but it was because He was
taking me through something...". Psalm 30 ends with
words of exchange: "You have turned my mourning
into joyful dancing". Just as we celebrate God with
the dance, we also have to remember that God was still
there when we were motionless. The feelings changed but
the fact remained. And there was a great party at the
end, fueled by a deeper appreciation and understanding
of God's presence.
Davidson is a husband (to Emily), father (to Alexis),
and serves as Worship Pastor at CrossRoads Church in
Temperance, MI. www.adamdavidson.net
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