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Defining Worship: Experiencing God When it Feels Like He's Not There by Adam Davidson


What 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 was there.


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 gone now. 


A few things we can draw from this:

First of 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.


about the author

Adam 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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