Do you ever find it difficult to worship God?
When you hear the call to worship in Psalm 100, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” does your heart expand with joy, or do you find a little resistance somewhere down inside?
The call to worship evokes in me images of God’s creation-waterfalls, ocean waves, mountain peaks, puppies, and sunrises-as well as gratitude for God’s kindness to me. But I confess that the call to rejoice over God in song also exposes my deep anxieties and my horror over suffering.
In that instance I am faced with what I believe is the most important choice given to mankind: will I worship God or blame Him?
Why Worship God?
I remember thinking when I was young that God’s desire for us to worship Him revealed His self-centeredness. I wondered if He were any different than rock stars or movie icons who feed on the adoration of their fans.
Now, by God’s kindness, I have an inkling that God is so glorious that knowing Him equals worshipping Him. He wants us to know Him (“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God” John 17:3), and even a glimpse of His power, glory, and mercy cannot but awaken worship in us.
When finite and fallen creatures like us behold the One infinite in power, creativity, and life, as well as in kindness, mercy, love and holiness, we can’t help but fall down in worship. We can’t glimpse the One who spins the stars in the universe, knowing He also humbled Himself to wash the dirty feet of His friends, and not burst with adoration, humility, and awe. We were made for this.
So I am growing in understanding that He calls us to worship because He desires intimacy with us, and we cannot know Him without worshiping him. But why this resistance? Why do I find the slightest hesitation to worship in me?
Because I am tempted to blame Him.
The Temptation to Blame God
Yes, my heart says, He has been good to me until now, but what if _______ happens tomorrow?
Yes, my heart says, He died for us, but why does He allow Nigerian schoolgirls to be kidnapped and sold as sex slaves? What is going on? Why is there so much suffering and injustice down here? Isn’t He to blame for all of this? Shouldn’t I protect myself from Him just a little bit?
This confession brings tears to my eyes; I grieve to admit this. But I am pushing myself because I suspect you find the same block in your heart. Is your worship of God diminished, even in the slightest way, by the temptation to blame Him?
Phillip Yancey in his book, Disappointment with God, says that our difficulties with pain and suffering amount to a “modern obsession, the theological kryptonite* of our time,” (p. 180). If he’s right, then I am not the only who enters church and hears the call to worship with some amount of kryptonite–the temptation to blame God for pain and suffering–around my neck, draining the life and joy out of my celebration of Him.
What are you tempted to blame God for? What pain or unanswered question in your life or the life of someone else, hangs around your neck when you hear the call to worship?
Another way to approach it is to consider if everyone in your church were free from this kryptonite, if everyone had an unobstructed view of God’s holiness, beauty, power, unblemished goodness, and limitless mercy, and rather than blaming Him rejoiced in Him, what would worship sound like? Would we even be able to hear ourselves in that sanctuary? Could we remain standing on our feet? Would the roar of a crowd at a football stadium compare?
So why is worship ever lackluster? Why would we ever be tempted to check our watches or text messages while in worship? I guess it is because so many of us find ourselves caught somewhere between worship and blame. We want to worship God, but the kryptonite of blame drags on us.
So what do we do? I am in process about this, struggling to lift and toss away any remaining kryptonite in my own life, but I offer a couple of thoughts that I hope might help.
Confession and Choice
If we are angry at God, tempted to blame Him, we must first get real about that. It won’t go away if we ignore it. Like I have done in this post, we must confess, “I am tempted to blame God for _______.” The Bible is full of the gut-wrenching confessions of God’s people: “Why have you forsaken me?”(Matt 27:46); “God has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes” (Job 30:19); “Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?” (Jer 15:18)
I am learning that if we want a real relationship with God, we will have to bring Him our real hearts–blame and all–and see what He says to us. If you are like me, you want to figure out what God would say and have it mentally all in hand. But it doesn’t work like that, just as our relationships don’t work if they become so stale that we don’t tell our friend or our spouse what is on our mind because “we know what they would say” anyway.
We must risk it. We must value Him enough to let Him into our pain and see what happens. The closest I have ever been to God was the night I finally realized and confessed to Him that I was angry with Him because my uncle viciously murdered my aunt and small cousin when I was thirteen.
The next thing on my mind is that we choose. God gives us the dignity of choice: will we worship Him or blame Him? I believe the way we answer this question is the most important thing about us. Our answer determines whether we will rebel against what it means to be human, to breathe and live at the will of the Uncreated One, or whether we will accept the mandate of our existence and surrender to Him our questions and fears, our pain and sorrow, trusting that He is good.
This is what Jesus did when He surrendered Himself to Pilate for crucifixion. He said to Pilate, “You would have no authority over me unless it had been given to given to you from above” (John 19:11). And Hebrews explains, “For the joy that was set before Him (He)endured the cross” (Heb 12:2). Jesus faced horrific circumstances and battled through to confidence in God’s sovereign goodness. He trusted that because of His Father’s goodness, joy awaited Him.
To choose to follow Jesus and worship God, I must make His revelation of Himself my starting point, not my feelings, my thoughts, or even my experiences. His word says “He is good, and his steadfast love endures forever,” (Psalm 107:1). I start there–I know that God is good and full of steadfast love that will not fail because His Son said so–and I choose to enter into worship.
May my trusting obedience, my willingness to confess and throw aside the kryptonite of blame for the lie that it is, open me to a deeper intimacy with the God of love. I pray the same may be true for you. May the Lord “cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations” (Is 61:11).
*Kryptonite: the only compound in the universe capable of subduing Superman’s strength or killing him. His enemies attempt to use it to overcome him.