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3 Ways to Worship God During Tough Times

Written By Hilary Charlet, USA

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.

3 Challenges to Worshipping God in a World of Choices

Written By Madeline Twooney, Germany

I love worshipping God and spending time with Him.

Every morning, I try my best to set aside time to worship God through prayer, music, Bible study, and journaling. During this dedicated time, I give thanks to God and meditate on His Word. In turn, God’s presence—His answer to prayers, the mercy and comfort He shows me—fills me with strength, gives me peace, and reminds me that God is always looking after me. When l come out of my time with God, l am strengthened in the assurance of His love.

That being said, making time to worship God and commit myself to Him isn’t easy. The world offers distractions and pursuits that tempt me to take my eyes off God. Hence, l am constantly challenged to choose between spending time with God in worship and what the world offers.

Over time, I have come to recognize the things that are most likely to distract me from God. This helps me work on re-focusing my attention back to God.

Here are three of my most pressing challenges to worshipping God in a world full of choices. Perhaps you might be able to relate to them as well:

 

1. Caught Between Two Masters: Technology or God

I remember receiving my first mobile phone in the late 90s. Before that, l was hightailing it to a pay phone every time l wanted to ring someone when l was on the go. Similarly, l am grateful for the invention of the Internet. Teaching myself makeup application from YouTube tutorials jumpstarted my freelance career as a makeup and special-effects artist (makeup application using prosthetics, face paint and casts).

However, at some point, my life began to revolve around my devices, apps, and social media feeds. I began relying more and more on the Internet for information, as well as the endless possibilities for entertainment.

It is scary how easily we allow the digital world to rule our lives. God says that we cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). When we can’t stop scrolling through social media feeds, or when we just have to play one more game of “Candy Crush” on our phones, then we’ve become too addicted to technology. Too often, we look to Google for answers to our problems instead of coming to our Father who created Heaven and earth—the God who says that when we seek Him, we will find Him (Matthew 7:7).

When it got to the point where l was tempted to check my WhatsApp messages during church services, l knew technology was becoming more attractive than being in God’s presence. It was time to cut the digital umbilical cord.

These days, instead of looking at my phone when l get up in the morning, l thank God for the day He has made (Psalm 118:24). During my worship time with God, l turn off all my devices. If someone wants to get in contact with me during this time, they can leave a message. In church, l switch my phone off before the service starts. Knowing my phone won’t vibrate or light up during church helps avoid distraction and keeps my focus on worshipping God.

 

2. FOMO—Fear Of Missing Out

Every day when l get up in the morning, my focus is to spend those first hours of the day with God.

However, more often than not, by the time l give my one-eared pussycat his breakfast and start brewing my first cup of coffee, my mind starts formulating a list of all the activities l want to do that day, such as my plans to exercise or meet up with friends. I start to get so nervous at the thought of not experiencing any of these events, that l become tempted to exchange my dedicated worship time for the pursuit of my other endeavors.

Today’s fast-paced society is a result of an oversaturation of choices. Our anxiety at missing out on an experience causes us to run from pillar to post. We’re suffering from FOMO—Fear Of Missing Out.

When I notice myself getting anxious from an abundance of choices and too little time to choose them all, l remind myself to go back to the Bible for guidance. Matthew 6:33 encourages us to seek God’s kingdom first above all things. After that, God will provide us with everything we need. l am learning to fear missing out on my daily encounter with God more than the pursuits of the world.

 

3. The Allure of the Things of this World

One of my favorite recreational pursuits is going to the gym. Although l work out to live a healthy lifestyle, a part of me is very aware of the “body goals” that are portrayed on Instagram and splashed across the pages of magazines. Sometimes, when l lift weights, l wonder whether I should be working toward these goals instead of being content with the body God has given me.

We all chase after different goals—whether it’s a perfect body, the latest iPhone, or exotic holidays. But too often, these “goals” can easily turn into objects of worship, drawing our attention away from God.

Romans 12:2 encourages us to not conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. When l find myself choosing to go down rabbit holes of superficial pursuits instead of spending time with God in His Word, l need to stop and remind myself that the only truly worthy pursuit is that of seeking God’s presence. Meditating on the Word keeps my eyes fixed on the unchanging nature of God in a fad-induced society. It reminds me that God’s opinion matters in my life, not the world’s.

Knowing that I am easily tempted by these goals, I have learned to prioritize my relationship with God. When I spend time regularly worshipping God, I can work out for the sake of being healthy, without worrying that it would eat into my time with God.

 

We are only temporary residents in this world, but our relationship with God is one that crosses into eternity. When we consider that Jesus made the ultimate choice to give His life for us at the cross to purchase our freedom, then making the decision to spend time with God in worship and praise becomes a lot easier, and the choices of the world begin to pale in comparison.

If you find your worship of God challenged by the choices and expectations of the world, l get it. Choosing to put my worship time ahead of my pursuits of this world is something l’m still working on every day.

This doesn’t mean we need to change our entire lifestyle, but can begin by taking small steps at a time. Perhaps we can get up earlier and dedicate that time to God, or maybe we can put aside 15 minutes a day to read the Bible. These small steps add up, daily drawing us closer to God. As we seek Him, He will also give us the desire and will to worship Him.

The Art of Worship

Title: The Art of Worship
Artwork by: Paris Krahn (@pariskrahnart)
Description: 
When I first became a Christian, I didn’t really understand how to worship God. I sang songs on Sundays, and tried to be “Christ-like” in my outward actions, but my heart wasn’t willing to follow God’s will.

I didn’t understand that worship had to begin with growing closer to God in a relationship, and inviting Him, even in the struggles of life, to transform us. (Ezekiel 36:26-27) Worship essentially is the eager and proper response from a heart won over in gratitude, adoration, reverence, repentance, obedience, trust, and desire for more of God. But even if we fail, He is faithful and is willing to give us the grace to begin again. Knowing this, how can we not live our lives for Him in endless worship?

Now I am pursuing God’s call to paint and share my love for the Word of God with others. My goal isn’t just to make pretty artwork, but to point people toward the Author of creation and the Word, and consequently, worshipful living.

 

REDEEM OUR LAND

This piece reflects a prayer I had for God to “heal our land”. However, In order for God to heal our world, we have to let Him into our hearts. He’s the God who will meet us in the muddiest of valleys and willingly breathes new life into us. We don’t need to be afraid to open our secret hearts to God, because He is ever patient and overflowing with grace. He will redeem what was once dark and lifeless into something purposeful in His kingdom, and transform us into new creations who are truly alive!

 

 

HEAVEN’S SONG

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2)

Creation bears proof that we have a brilliant Creator, but it also sings back to God in worship, though seemingly silent. God hears the sound of creation loud and clear–it’s an endless Halleluiah. Creation teaches us to praise, even in the dark night or mundane moments. How beautiful it is that right now we can join an ongoing chorus of worship and connect with The Life Breather.

 

 

MEET ME IN THE MORNING

Psalms 143:8 is a morning prayer of reliance. When we rise, we revive our hearts with God’s unfailing love. When we face mountains too hard to scale, or when another day daunts us, He gives us the strength to move forward. What I love most about this passage, is that when we read His word, He speaks life into our weary souls.

“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” (Psalms 143:8)

 

 

BUTTERCUP

This was the first painting I did after having a baby. I felt inspired to work on it when I sensed God calling me to “begin” again, just as I was, and paint. Completing it gave me the confidence to officially sell my art professionally. Though the original face has been now updated, I feel like it describes my style now, celebrating growth and the worthy pursuit of God’s call in our lives.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

 

How Worship Helped in My Body Image Struggles

Written by Agnes Lee, Singapore

Church was crowded that Sunday. My family and I took seats in the back. A woman standing up from her seat in front of me quickly caught my attention. Her body was perfectly ladylike, with a small waist and a nice hip.

“I wish my body was as beautiful as hers. She is so perfect,” I thought to myself. My build is boyish, and though I have always desired  a tiny, well-defined waist, I most definitely do not have one. This is something I have struggled with for a long time, and I couldn’t help but compare my body with hers.

During worship, such thoughts continued to distract me. It was a battle to stay focused on the songs. The Bible says that believers must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23), so I kept praying and asking God to remove the struggle from my mind, and to keep me focused on worship. I could not worship in spirit when my mind was struggling to focus. My worship was not truly from my heart. It was just an outward display that is not pleasing in His sight.

One of the songs we sang was “Glory to the Lamb”. I was wrestling with my thoughts when the lyrics suddenly spoke to me—God is all glorious, and He became the lamb that took away our sins. His resurrection conquers all our struggles.

 

I Am Made For God’s Glory

He is greater than my struggle! I can lay my sinful thoughts—of dissatisfaction with my body and distraction during worship—down at His feet. As I surrendered my struggle in God’s presence, I prayed that He would guard my mind and my thoughts so that I could focus on Him.

As the song ended, I felt a prompting in my heart, saying, “Honor me with your body. Follow My ways and My righteousness, and you will be My glory.” At first I wondered if I was out of my mind, because it seemed unimaginable that I could be God’s glory. But now I think I understand what it means: when we choose to walk in His ways and righteousness instead of giving in to our struggles, God is proud of us, just as a father is proud of his own child.

The Bible says in Psalm 139:14 that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and His works are wonderful. God made no error in our creation, and it is God’s intention for each of us to look unique as His handicraft. He has given us different looks and different talents according to His purpose for our lives. It is only by following His ways and His righteousness that we can fulfill God’s unique will for us in each of our lives. When we live out God’s unique purpose for us, we will shine and be His glory.

I realized that there is no need to compare my body with others’, because comparison distracts us from fulfilling God’s unique purpose for each of us (James 3:16, Proverbs 14:30).

 

Walking in God’s Ways

I was moved by this thought. God Himself is already all glorious, but yet He says that we will be His glory when we walk in His ways. The Bible tells us that God created us for His own glory (Isaiah 43:7), and reminds us to live worthy lives, “because God is calling us into His kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12).

God should be our ultimate focus, not the size of our physical bodies. By focusing too much attention on my body shape, I dishonor God and His creation. Instead, I can seek to honor God by not trying to watch my calories, or not exercising excessively in order to look like that skinny model on the runway. In fact, we need not even worry about what we eat, because the Bible reminds us that the kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

This does not mean that we can eat whatever we want, but if we focus too much on our diet or exercise in seeking to achieve our ideal body shape, we are robbing ourselves of the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit. And by focusing on our body image, we idolize our own bodies. If we idolize our own bodies instead of allowing Jesus to satisfy us, how can we effectively point others to Him?

Because God created us, He counts us as His own. He urges us to turn to Him and live our lives focused on Him, so that we can inherit His kingdom—that has no end—and His eternal glory. My heart stirred with a sense of belonging, that despite my struggles with my body image, God still holds me close and assures me that I am an heir of the glory He would bestow.

I am reminded that our bodies are only temporary tents for our dwelling on earth (2 Corinthians 5:1). As co-heirs with Christ, we can take heart that God will eventually transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body (Philippians 3:21). With these truths in mind, I am determined to walk by faith and not by my own sight, to make it my goal to please Him while I dwell in my earthly body so that one day, I may receive what is promised (2 Corinthians 5:7-10).

For a long time, I felt like I would never be able to surrender my struggles with body image. But God used worship to draw my heart back to Him. He reminded me that my sin is already conquered, and that I am made for His glory.

 

Worship Leads Us to God

I am convinced that worship is meant to lead us back to God. When we worship in spirit and in truth, we come into His presence and allow Him to purify our thoughts. When we keep our minds focused on Him during worship, we set our minds on things above, not on earthly things that will eventually fade away (Colossians 3:2). When we sing praises to God, we fix our minds on the presence of God and allow ourselves to be captivated by His beauty that is beyond comprehension.

As we soak ourselves in His sovereign presence, we begin to surrender our own sinful desires and allow Him to renew our spirit. God is attentive to our needs, and always ready to help us (Psalm 34:15-17). When we give God our whole heart, He will speak into our situation and struggle. Worship is an opportunity for us to lay down our weary struggles at His feet and be purified by Him, so that we can live freely for Him and inherit His glory.

Every now and then, I still struggle with my body image, but each time I come before Him in true worship, He frees me from the weight of my struggles.

When I was a new believer, I used to think that we had worship time so latecomers could arrive before the sermon started and would not miss the beginning of the sermon. But now I realize that each encounter during worship is an opportunity for me to experience God’s powerful presence. I do not want to miss it.