How to Worship God in Hard Times
- Matt Redman and Beth Redman mattredman.com
- 2016 14 Jun
The writer of Lamentations was not alone in his faith-building technique. The psalmists were constantly practicing this discipline. In so many of the psalms, the writer recalls the story of God’s faithfulness as a bridge toward worship and hope. Psalm 13, for example, begins with a desperate cry but ends with a reminder of God’s track record in his life:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Five urgent questions from a worshiper longing to be free of his suffering. Yet he ends his song with the choice to believe and trust in the powerful and merciful nature of his God:
The psalmist here teaches us a beautiful truth: Remembering releases rejoicing.
Throughout the ages, the people of God have found strength in this approach. Take, for example, the writer of the old hymn “The Solid Rock”—a song deeply rooted in the truth of an unchangeable, unshakable Savior:
When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In other words, in times when we can’t seem to perceive God amidst our pain, and the clouds of anxiety and fear close in on us, the way forward is to remind ourselves of what we know to be true and dependable—the unchanging grace of God.
It’s a little like looking at the moon. We’ve all seen a full moon and therefore know something of its form. But we don’t always witness it like this. Some nights we see a half moon, at other times just a small sliver of moon. And on some occasions we see almost nothing at all—just the faintest outline hidden by a cloudy night sky. Yet the point is this: Even when the moon is obstructed from our view, we are still convinced of its existence and true form because of what we have seen in the past. The same is true of our walk as worshipers of Jesus. At times, painful life circumstances seem to obstruct our view of Him and His goodness. But we have seen the form of the Lord many times before—in life and in Scripture—and know Him to be as good and as kind as He ever was. Faced with challenging times, a wise worshiper looks over the form of the Lord—recalling the soul-refreshing wonders of His nature and attributes—and through this finds a way to the place of praise. Our Father in heaven has an incredible track record.
Faced with anguish and distress, the psalmist even talked to himself. To find strength and hope, he repeatedly speaks to his soul, reminding himself that there is One who can save him. Twice he cries out in Psalm 42:
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
vv. 5–6, 11
If you yourself are in a season of struggle, take a moment now to remind yourself of the God who sees your struggle. It’s possible to talk your soul into a place of hope. We worship a triumphant Savior, a victorious King. The all-powerful and all-loving God, who is faithful in all He says and gracious in all He does. The One who has never been anxious, overwhelmed, or outsmarted. The God of unbroken promises. When He acts, no one can reverse it. When He speaks, His commands never return empty. The God who never wastes His words. The doors He chooses to open, no one can close; and the doors He purposes to close, no one can open. No plan of His has ever been thwarted. No one has ever outmaneuvered Him, outlived Him, or out-loved Him. He remains as faithful as the day He created you in love, and as powerful as the day He spoke the world into being. And in your brokenness He stays as close and as involved as you want Him to be.
To worship God is to tell Him that we believe Him for who He says He is. Every day we’re faced with the choice either to acknowledge and proclaim Him as the great and merciful God He declares himself to be or to deny Him. Intense though it may sound, the truth is this: If we deny something good about God, we automatically imply something bad about Him. If we deny God’s sovereignty and power, we imply, to a degree at least, that He is weak and has lost control. If we can’t bring ourselves to trust that He is full of mercy, then perhaps, at least in part, we’re implying that He has a mean or uncaring streak. There is actually no middle ground. He is either the all-powerful, all-loving God His Word declares Him to be, or He is not.
That may sound a touch harsh. Please hear it in the context of the incredible wealth of patience, kindness, and compassion stored up for us in the heart of God. For in His amazing grace, our heavenly Father finds delight even in the most broken and fragile of our offerings—in the same way that an earthly father will rejoice upon receiving a simple yet heartfelt piece of art from his young child. Yet this is only one side of the mystery, for our God is also the majestic and holy King—worthy to be trusted and believed in for the wonderful truths He says about himself. He desires and requires faith, trust, and obedience—He wants worshipers who stake their lives on the truths of His nature and attributes.
Note the heart posture of a Nazi concentration camp prisoner who once scribbled these lines onto the wall of his cell:
I believe in the sun,
Even when it is not shining.
I believe in love,
Even when I feel it not.
I believe in God,
Even when He is silent.
Yes, every act of worship is a choice—a decision to believe and respond to God for who He says He is—no matter how pressing our circumstances. And the greater the pain we’re experiencing, the greater a choice it may be. Sometimes we will walk blindly, unable to understand why we are going through a certain situation—our only comfort being the knowledge that God himself is not walking blindly, but instead is wisely, kindly, and firmly in control. Indeed, as we will begin to see, so often our Father in heaven will take our broken moments and weave them into a powerful tapestry to the glory of His name.
[Editor’s Note: Content taken from Finding God in the Hard Times by Matt and Beth Redman. © 2016 by Matt and Beth Redman. Used by permission of “Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group,” http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com.]
Matt and Beth Redman received the Dove Award for Worship Song of the Year for “Blessed Be Your Name.” In additional to being a full-time worship leader and writing and recording music, Matt is the author of the Unquenchable Worshipper and Facedown. Beth is the author of Soul Sister and Beautiful. Matt, Beth, and their children live in West Sussex, England. Learn more at www.mattredman.com.
Publication date: June 14, 2016