So what should we do when we feel nothing, when we are bored and indifferent and dead on the inside, when we are downcast and can barely move our mouths to sing? What should we do when we've lost our sense of intimacy with the Lord, when we feel nothing of his presence, when there is but a haunting echo of his distance? Some of you struggle to attend church. You find little appealing in it but feel obligated to go because a friend or family member pressured you into coming. Can you still glorify God in worship? Yes!
Even though you may not now feel any joy or satisfaction in his presence, you want to. If you didn’t want to enjoy God you wouldn’t be bothered by how dead and lifeless your soul feels. You remember days past when your heart was aflame and your spirit ablaze with passion for God and with a sense of his presence. You delighted in his goodness and praise was easy and natural and free. You want it. You are desperate for it. You cry for it. But it's not there, for now.
Perhaps you are in a place of extreme emotional brokenness. Your life is crumbling all around you. Nothing has worked out the way you hoped. All that you've strived to achieve is disintegrating before your eyes and you are helpless to stem the tide. All that you once valued is vanishing. You feel nothing. Your spirit is dry and barren and you sense an ugly anger and bitterness rising up in your heart. Can you worship in a way that honors and glorifies God? Yes. So what should you do?
Sing anyway. Worship anyway. Praise God for his matchless worth and his unexcelled beauty. "Wait a minute, Sam. That sounds like your encouraging me to be a hypocrite. I'm confused." I can appreciate that. But what I'm advocating isn't hypocrisy, because God is glorified by your longing for the joy that is to be found in him even if you are not yet experiencing it. God is honored by what John Piper calls "the spark of anticipated gladness" that leads you to praise him even when you don't feel like it.
And let’s be clear about the meaning of hypocrisy. It’s not hypocrisy if you have no desire for God but you wish you did. Hypocrisy is present when you have no desire for God but you pretend as if you did in order to impress others with your spirituality.
In your brokenness you know that there is only One who can heal and bind up your wounds. In your spiritual weariness you know there is only One who can bring refreshment and renewal to your arid soul. In your cold-heartedness you know there is only One who can bring life-giving warmth. In your joylessness you know there is only One who can restore delight to your spirit. And it is precisely this deep and desperate desire in your spiritual desert that so profoundly honors God.
Let me try to illustrate my point. Think of God as if he were a desert oasis. As I see it, you can magnify an oasis in either of two ways. The most obvious way is by jumping into its refreshing, cool, life-giving waters and drinking to your heart's delight. But you can also honor the oasis by the painful sorrow you feel in not yet having reached it as you continue to press on in the spiritual desert. When you ache for the refreshment of the oasis, even though you're still hot and dry and thirsty, when you grieve because of the absence of its life-giving waters, you magnify the oasis even before you have opportunity to enjoy it. So too with God.
Isn't this what we see in Psalm 42:1-2? “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” What honors the water: the deer bent over drinking, after a long journey in the desert, or the deer diligently panting for the water while yet in the desert? Both! Actually drinking is the best and most satisfying way to honor the water; but until you get there, continue to thirst for it. For in doing so, God is glorified!
This article originally appeared on SamStorms.com. Used with permission.
Sam Storms is an Amillennial, Calvinistic, charismatic, credo-baptistic, complementarian, Christian Hedonist who loves his wife of 44 years, his two daughters, his four grandchildren, books, baseball, movies, and all things Oklahoma University. In 2008 Sam became Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Sam is on the Board of Directors of both Desiring God and Bethlehem College & Seminary, and also serves as a member of the Council of The Gospel Coalition. Sam is President-Elect of the Evangelical Theological Society.
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Publication date: April 14, 2017