The Nitty-Gritty, Not-So-Pretty Instrument for Spiritual Growth
The last thing any of us need is one more item on our “to do” list, especially one that elicits guilt for having to write it on a “to do” list in the first place. But what if I told you that the one thing you can incorporate into your life in order to grow spiritually isn’t a chore at all? It doesn’t require any extra time in your day, mental clarity, or even a good attitude. What if I told you that one thing is worship?
I know what you’re thinking, because I’ve thought it too. I'm just trying to get through this, let alone grow through this. I rarely have the capacity to empty my mind of the million things going on in my life so I can simply praise God. I don’t have the energy to wake up fifteen minutes earlier to focus on God’s attributes. I’m not in the mood and I don’t sing. Great! Now that we’ve cleared up what worship is not (or at least what worship is not limited to), let’s see all it encompasses, how it leads to spiritual growth, and a few no-stress ways to start incorporating it into your life.
One writer defines worship this way,
“The heart of true, authentic worship is the bringing of one’s life and concerns to God so that all may be set before him and worked through in his presence…it is seeing God while looking life squarely in the face."
What this means for you and me is that worship is not something we have to make time or be in the mood for. We don’t grow into the image of Christ by clearing our minds of all our concerns so we can talk to God, focusing only on how great God is, or singing our praises in order to forget that we’re really afraid or angry. We grow into the image of Christ when we bring our real selves, our real emotions, our real concerns and our complete lives to him. When we allow God access to the nitty-gritty, not-so-pretty parts of our lives, we’re allowing God to work through those things for and with us. We’re asking to see things from his perspective when ours is broken. That is true worship that leads to true spiritual growth.
Here are some tips that can help you incorporate authentic worship into your life:
1. Call on the name of the Lord, at any time, in any place:
Worship can be boiled down to calling on the name of the Lord. “This expression can refer to anything from a simple invocation by calling out the name of the Lord, to a pointed cry to God for help, to full-fledged occasions of worship with extensive prayer, praise, or lament, and other worship activities.” Let God be the first person you talk to about everything – the good, the bad, and everything in between. Call on him when you want to thank him and when you’re about to lose it. When you want to shout for joy or cry your eyes out. When you’re alone and when you’re surrounded by people. Call on the name of the Lord.
2. Come with all of your emotions:
When life doesn’t go the way we want, it’s easy to feel like we need to check our disappointment at the door and just bring our trust. Check our fear at the door and just bring our faith. Check our sadness at the door and just bring our praise. We may even wait to worship until we’ve worked through those emotions we’d rather not admit to God. Here’s the thing - true worship is bringing it all and allowing God to supernaturally transform it. He knows how you feel before you tell him, but when we withhold our true selves, we’re limiting God’s access. He wants it all.
3. Complete 180s are not guaranteed (or expected):
Often, worship will transform our emotions. We can come fearful and, through worship, be calmed and strengthened. But never put that pressure on yourself. You’re not worshiping wrong if you stay sad or afraid. God does not expect you to turn off the tears in five minutes or less. There are many examples in scripture where emotions change through worship, and many where they do not. Read Psalm 88, for example; it’s quite depressing from start to finish. But keep coming back and keep allowing God to show you things from his perspective. Transformation and growth may be gradual, but God is always faithful.
Worship isn’t forgetting your life and focusing on God. Worship is bringing your life to him, trusting him to work through it, and grow you in the process. If you want to truly grow through this time, not just get through this time, worship. Bring every stress, every question, every frustration, every challenge and every doubt to him. Only through authentic worship will you be equipped through the Holy Spirit, learn to see things from God’s perspective, and grow into the image of Christ.
*Quotes by Richard Averbeck