Last year was a tough one for me. It started off great—I went to my first-ever Christian conference in February, and it was amazing. Everything I heard and saw at the conference encouraged me, challenged me, and filled my heart with a deeper realization of God’s love for us. The theme of the conference was “Stepping Season.” Little did I know, I was about to enter into my own stepping season that would test everything I learned that weekend.
From the moment I left the conference to the months that followed, it seemed like anything and everything that could go wrong, did. There were weeks of hospital stays for my brother who had a blood clot in his arm and required surgery to remove a rib constraining his vein, strained relationships with people I care deeply about, as well as sleepless nights, heartbreak, tears, rejection, confusion . . . It seemed like it was never going to end.
I was able to smile when I was around others, but when I was on my own, I couldn’t keep it together. I was mad. I had questions. I didn’t understand. I was scared.
I was feeling a lot of emotions, and quite honestly, did not feel like worshipping through it. I just cried a lot at first and prayed that God would heal and comfort me. It was during that time that I learned to worship God in spite of my circumstances.
While I wouldn’t choose to go through it all again, the experiences of the past year taught me the power and faithfulness of God in even the darkest of times. Worship, I realized, was all the more important in difficult times. Here are three things I did that helped me worship Him:
1. Dig into His Word
I had spent time doing devotionals in the past, but now it was a daily necessity. Reading about God’s promises and faithfulness in the stories of the Bible gave me hope. Some of the people went through some really rough stuff, sometimes for years. Think of Joseph, for example—sold by his brothers and eventually sent to prison for two years (Genesis 37-41). Think of the seven years of famine (Genesis 41-45). Or the time the flood filled the Earth (Genesis 6-7). Yet God always remained faithful, even when it seemed hopeless. He would certainly remain faithful in my life.
Not only did I encounter God’s Word in my daily quiet time, but it seemed like wherever I turned, the verse Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”, would somehow surface, whether it was in a conversation with someone, reading something random, or even purchasing a t-shirt for a fundraiser.
Even though everything in my own life seemed so out of whack and crazy, this verse assured me that God would somehow use what I was going through for good in the future. Though it hurt at the time, the pain wouldn’t be for no reason at all. God was behind the scenes working, and though it might take time, it will all have a purpose.
Sometimes it’s difficult to open up my Bible and read a story about how good God is, especially when it doesn’t feel like it at the time. However, I am learning to cling tight to His promises. His plans are far greater than any we can imagine. He’s working everything together for our good.
2. Turn on your music
Sometimes positive, upbeat music is the last thing we want to hear when we are wallowing in our troubles. It’s worth turning them on anyway. “Mighty Warrior” by David Virgo got me through so many days last year. The lyrics, “Mighty Warrior, You will see that all things work for my good, things work for my good” in particular really spoke to me. It was only months down the road that I realized how the song had helped me declare God’s goodness and faithfulness over my life in spite of what I was going through.
“Walking on Water” by NEEDTOBREATHE was another song that got me through the hard times. During the weeks my brother was in the hospital, my sister-in-law and I heard that song consistently playing on the radio. The lyrics were just what I needed to hear. They reminded me that the Lord was working, and I just had to trust Him through the wind and waves.
Find songs that lift you up, that you can worship through. Put the songs on repeat. Crank it up. Jam out. Look for the truth the song proclaims, and repeat it to yourself until you believe it. Sure, worshipping God might be the last thing we feel like doing. But let’s do it anyway. Worshipping through the hard times brings us new strength and hope. It might be just what we need to get through the day.
3. Be honest with God about your emotions
In our hardest times, we need to turn to the Lord. He wants to be there for us, and He wants to listen. Let’s not hide anything from Him. After all, He already knows what we’re feeling, so why not just be raw and real with Him? If we’re angry, we can tell Him. If we’re confused, we can talk to Him about it. We don’t need to have it all together to go to Him. He wants us as we are. Every piece of us. He loves us, and He isn’t going to stop listening just because we’re mad or “yelling” at Him. He can handle it.
David the psalmist is a great example of this. In Psalm 42, for example, he cries out to God, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’” (Psalm 42:9-10). David was discouraged and sad, and He wasn’t afraid to show it. We needn’t be afraid or feel bad about telling God our emotions either.
Let us take our true emotions and feelings to God, and may He fill us with His peace, joy, restoration, healing, and love. This won’t happen overnight—or maybe it will. For me, it’s still a daily process and something I have to choose day after day. Instead of covering up how I feel, I am learning that sharing my true emotions brings me peace unlike anything else.
It’s crazy to look back now at all that the ups and downs of last year, and it’s even crazier to say that I am thankful for it. I now call it my year of plowing—plowing deep and digging into a deeper relationship with God. A lot of things I had hoped for and prayed for have turned out differently, but they surpass what I originally had in mind. There are also still things I don’t understand, but I now have a different perspective on them. I have seen God’s faithfulness, and I trust and believe that He always works it for our good (Romans 8:28).
God might not be changing your circumstances how you would like Him to, but don’t lose hope. God is shaping you and molding you into the person He created you to be, and it’s going to be beautiful. No matter how dark things seems right now, hold tight and know that God loves you deeply. Let us keep worshipping Him, trusting that He will bring us through even the most difficult days.