How to Worship God with Your Emotions
- Jessica Van Roekel Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2021 25 Jan
As a worship leader, I know the dangers of emotion-driven worship. But I also know the dangers of worship without emotions.
Emotions do not prove truth, but truth should strike a life with positive emotional force. It's tempting to let the complex nature of both to say that worship is only singing in church and box up our emotions.
But God created us to worship and he gave us emotions. How do we unite the two?
What Is Worship?
Worship is more than singing songs to the Lord. It is living a life filled with adoration that prompts us to honor and obey him. worship includes singing, but it also includes choosing gratefulness over grumbling.
Romans 12:1-2 reveals the how-to of living a life of worship: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
What about Our Emotions?
God made us in his image, which includes emotions. He is the source of our emotional life.
Unfortunately, sin broke the perfect relationship between God and man. One of the consequences of this are the sin-tinted glasses that cloud our vision. Our emotions are a good gift from the Lord.
The choices we make driven by our emotions can lead us into sin.
An example of this is the feeling of anger. Jesus warns us to be angry, but do not sin. So, what are we to do with these big emotions like anger? We bring it to the Lord and ask him to help us process it.
Happiness can make us feel like we could float off the ground. Is that much pleasure wrong? Not when rejoicing is important to the Lord.
There must be a way to live a life of worship that includes our emotions. To love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is the most important commandment (Mark 12:30).
We love God when we let him into our anger, happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, and surprise. We worship God with our emotions when we cooperate with the Holy Spirit. A worshipful emotional life comes out of sound spiritual principles.
1. Pour Out Your Heart to Him
The management of our emotions is critical to our spiritual life.
Some of us deny our emotions by ignoring our feelings. Others of us indulge our emotions to the point where we’re driven by them. Nuanced and complex emotions influence our reactions to the world around us.
One of the ways we can worship God with our emotions is by bringing every emotion to him. He cares for us and welcomes our emotions.
We don't have to be strong and pretty ourselves up before we go to the Lord. A relationship based on the outward appearances is a shallow one.
Relationship that reveals our hearts to the Lord grows deeper over time.
The Psalms showcase the power of pouring out our hearts to him. This book reminds me that in God, my soul finds its rest.
Our soul--mind, will, and emotions--can feel so ruffled because of the things in this life. But every time pour out our hearts to the Lord, we choose worship because we reveal our entire selves to him.
We worship God with everything that is within our hearts. The good, the bad, and the hidden. When we do this, he soothes the ruffles and eases our heart to rest so we can focus on him as the object of our worship.
“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress; I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God. He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:5-8
2. Don’t Rush the Process
Learning to worship God with our emotions means that we need to learn to be comfortable with them. I tend to rush through sorrow and anger, not wanting to pause long enough to feel the pain and power they bring.
Sometimes my anger scares me, and I tuck it away until it bursts like a clogged sewer pipe. I’d much rather laugh than cry, but sometimes a good cry is exactly what I need.
I love to laugh, and sometimes I love to imagine God laughing with me. Positive emotions are easy, negative ones, not so much. But the Lord shows us that true, authentic worship begins with an honest look at the contents of my heart.
To count it all joy when we face trials means we have to navigate every emotion we face. To find joy, hope, peace, and trust, we must deal with the opposite emotions.
When I fail to recognize my hard emotions, worship feels shallow and fake. When I fail to admit the sorrow over unanswered prayers, a little wall goes up between me and the Lord.
At times this bringing of all our emotions feels a bit like taking the trash out. It’s rotten and smelly and leaky. Emotions can be messy. But God doesn’t shy away from the mess of us. He loves us enough to redeem us.
We bring our emotions—the joys, sorrows, the obvious ones, and the secret ones—to the Lord. We lay it down and say, “Lord, I don’t know what to do but I will worship you."
We worship him in the midst of the ugly. We praise him in the midst of the beauty. We live life aware of his presence in our lives and the comfort he wants to bring.
“Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” Psalm 50:14-15.
3. Partner with the Holy Spirit in Growth
The Holy Spirit emphasizes God’s ministry in our inner life.
A healthy emotional life flows out of cooperation with the Holy Spirit. We cannot flee from our emotions because that would be denying part of the image of God in our life. We allow the Holy Spirit access to the deepest parts of ourselves and trust him to do his work in our life.
Salvation is our initial acceptance and belief of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Sanctification happens from that moment until we reach our eternal home in heaven.
As we mature in our Christian walk, the Holy Spirit conforms us to the character of Christ. We learn to live by the Spirit as we daily choose to worship God with our emotions.
We lean into the weight of forgiveness, so we order our lives around God’s greatest gift to us—himself. We choose to honor him by conforming our behavior to what pleases him. Honoring him is one way of worship. Obedience is another. We know that out of our inner thoughts and feelings our actions flow.
Many times, we get out of step with the Holy Spirit because we either deny our emotions or let them drive us. The best way to stay in step with the Holy Spirit is to cooperate with him as he matures us.
This looks like choosing deep breaths when we're angry rather than venting to a friend. Other times, we decide not to rant because we want to avoid the trap of self-pity, so we quiet our soul and be still.
Our emotions don’t have boss us around. When we learn to worship God with our emotions, we recognize God as first place in our lives.
A Wonder-Filled Reflection of Him
God made us multi-faceted, beautiful reflections of him. He knows about the multi-layers of emotions like sorrow and joy held together in one memory.
Without emotions, our relationship with God would be rather one dimensional.
God delights in us. He sings songs over us. And every time we sing to him, cry in his presence, or choose to come to him with our emotions, we open wide the door to relationship with him.
Relationship with God is key to worshipping him with our emotions.
How do we worship God with our emotions? By bringing our hearts, with all its contents, to him. We pour out our hearts, pause, and cooperate with the Holy Spirit's work in our lives. Our emotions are a gift that opens the door to an intimate relationship with him.
As our relationship with him deepens, our worship does too.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/ColbieCreative
Jessica Van Roekel is a worship leader, speaker, and writer who writes at www.welcomegrace.com sharing hope-filled inspiration addressing internal hurts in the light of God’s transforming grace. She believes that through Christ our personal histories don’t have to define our present or determine our future. Jessica lives in rural Iowa with her husband and family. You can connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.