Have you ever been in church and heard the beginning chords to a worship song—and your heart saddens?
Or maybe you’re singing along, and then you hit a verse or a line or the bridge, and you stop.
Because your heart’s not there.
I understand, friend. Honest, I do.
I used to love the song, “King of My Heart.” I would sing it full of confidence and belief.
Then I found myself in a season where I almost walked away from my faith.
Specifically, I remember standing at my church singing this song. We got to the bridge and tears started streaming down my face:
You’re never gonna let, you’re never gonna let me down. You’re never gonna let, you’re never gonna let me down.
And I thought,
No. I don’t believe that. I’ve been following, trusting, and listening to you, God, and yet my life isn’t what I thought it would be. Honestly, I’m disappointed. I feel completely let down.
So what do you do? How do you sing and worship when your heart isn’t in it? Or when a worship song is hard to sing, because it declares a truth about God that you’re struggling to believe right now?
Join me in clinging to these three truths:
We worship not for ourselves, not to make our hearts feel good. We worship to glorify and exalt our God. Worship isn’t about us, it’s about him.
And when we focus more on ourselves (or how we feel) than on Jesus, of course we’re going to be unsatisfied in singing songs of praise to him.
This was not something I recognized while in the middle of my hard season. But in retrospect, I see this truth all over Scripture. God’s people are praising him in all sorts of circumstances.
When God brings the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, but before they come to the promised land, they respond to him with a song of praise (Exodus 15).
The book of Psalms is full of a variety of songs and worship, some as pure praise (Psalm 100, Psalm 150), others as lament over bad situations (Psalm 42-43, Psalm 130). But all declare truths about who God is.
Paul and Silas start singing hymns to God after they’re thrown into prison (Acts 16).
Do you see the variety of contexts for worship? Some are after the hard season, but some are during.
In Romans 12:1, we see another description of worship. It says:
Give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
Give your bodies. Be a living and holy sacrifice. This is truly the way to worship.
The act of going to God honestly, vulnerably, that in and of itself is an act of worship.
So is giving your whole self—physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually—to God. Worship doesn’t always look the same. It’s not always singing songs, but it is always meant for an audience of one—God himself.
I want to acknowledge that this truth does not change how you might be feeling. But it should change your perspective. It reminds us of the ultimate purpose of worship, and whom we’re meant to please.
From my own experience, when I’m struggling to sing a worship song, it usually means that I’m struggling to believe a particular truth about who God is. In my case, I was struggling to believe that God really loved me and that his ways were good.
When I stopped singing during Sunday morning service, I got honest with God, and prayed into what I was struggling to believe. I told him exactly how I felt:
God, I’m struggling to sing these words right now. The song proclaims that you’re never going to let me down, but that feels like a lie to me. I’m having a hard time believing that your ways are good and that you really love me. Would you help me to believe those truths again?
Not only did I pray that Sunday morning, but I kept praying into it. I kept asking God to remind me that he really loves me. And slowly, bit by bit, he did.
If you have trouble finding the words, may I offer two suggestions?
First, Scripture is a beautiful way of praying. It is full of humans who love God expressing their feelings honestly and openly.
I think one of my favourite parts of reading the Psalms is realizing that people who are faithful to God have had the same questions, the same doubts, that I have had. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone.
Secondly, I also know that for me there were some days where I had no words left to pray. My prayer was simple: I’m angry at you God. Amen.
More on angry prayers: My journey of lament
Even though I didn’t have the words to pray, I knew I had other people praying for me. I would encourage you to ask for prayer from others. Which takes great courage. But to let others in to pray the words we are lacking is truly life-changing. For me, I think it was the only reason I made it through my doubts and questions.
If you get a cut, it takes time to heal. Similarly, give yourself time. A year later, I could sing “King of My Heart” without feeling the same magnitude of emotions. It still brings back the memories, but it also reminds me of the healing God’s brought me through.
While you wait: 5 things waiting on God taught me
Not only do you need to give yourself time to heal, you also need to give yourself grace.
I remember in the middle of my doubts, in the middle when I was struggling to sing, I was overcome with guilt.
How could I, a Christian of many years, who works for a Christian organization, be struggling to believe in God’s goodness and love? I talk with people about how deeply God loves them, yet I was having a hard time believing his love for myself.
Turns out that it’s okay to have doubts. To struggle with your faith. It’s okay to question. You’re still human, regardless of how long you’ve loved Jesus for. You will have moments where your faith is lacking and you have unanswered questions.
The good news is that God waits for you, even when you feel stuck. He still loves you even if you’re having trouble loving him. He loved you before you loved him (see 1 John 4:9-10), and that doesn’t change even after you start to struggle or doubt.
Wherever you are with Jesus, I hope you know you are not alone. There are other believers who struggle, there are others who doubt, there are others who have troubles singing (and I’m not talking about vocal talent).
Read a story of struggle: Walking through my “dark night of the soul”
May we worship God where we’re at, giving our whole bodies as a sacrifice, even if it means we stop singing sometimes, with tears streaming down our face.
May we continue to pursue God, even in the hard moments.
May we get honest with God and tell him how we’re feeling, knowing and believing that his love for us will never change.