I never expected what losing my dad would do to me. Some days, I don’t want to pull the covers off. Some days, I don’t want to talk to anyone. Some days, I simply want to watch television, scrolling through Netflix until I find a story that takes me to another world.
This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this weight, but it’s definitely the most poignant. Don’t think you have to lose a loved one for depression to be justified. Grief comes in many sizes; some big, some small enough to fit into a mailbox. Seasons like these make worshiping God feel undesirable, even complex. Yet, for all our preconceived ideas of what worshiping God is, I was reminded of a line written by my friend Alan: “Some days, rising out of bed is a great act of worship.” Honoring God can be as meager and rural as lifting our head off the pillow in the morning.
1 Kings 19 tells the story of a suicidal prophet named Elijah. Despondent and on the run from the infamous Jezebel, Elijah breaks down and prays these words of defeat: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (4). This is the man who’s fingertips experienced the miracles of God—resurrections, fire from heaven, unbelievable provision. Now, he’s calling for a forfeit.
God’s response came through food, drink, and sleep: “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you” (7). This culminates in a forty-day trek through the desert. Hiding out in a cave on the mountain of Horeb, Elijah experiences three fantastic scenes—an earth-shattering wind, a majestic earthquake, and a roaring fire. The text, though, takes great pains to inform readers that God is not in any of these feats of power.
“…but the Lord was not in the wind.”
“…but the Lord was not in the earthquake.”
“…but the Lord was not in the fire.”
This redundancy stops with the next phenomenon: “And after the fire the sound of a low whisper” (12). The Lord is present in this.
That day, God taught Elijah that He occasionally works in groundbreaking, soil shaking miracles—Elijah experienced these over the course of his ministry. Yes, sometimes God is in the wind, the earthquake, the fire.
Then, there are situations when God doesn’t work through marvels and wonders. Instead, He communicates through a whisper. These moments are usually the most difficult to comprehend. When our problems don’t seem to be answered, we can be tempted to think that God has vanished. We limp through the desert, believing we’ve been marooned. “God, where’s the wind? Where’s the earthquake?”
“God, where’s the healing? Where’s the miracle?”
Yet, despite these feelings, God has not abandoned us in our pain. Sure, sometimes He works through an awe-inspiring miracle. You get the healing. You find peace. Other moments, He revels Himself in a small, unassuming voice. He’ll whisper in a sunset, the words of a friend, or through a piece of scripture. He’s here, even when we’re tempted to believe He’s not. We acknowledge God’s presence when we eat, drink, and sleep; when we keep pushing through the wilderness, even when the trees obscure the clearing.
That’s why, sometimes worshiping God is washing your face in the morning. Sometimes, worshiping God is hugging your spouse, your children, or a friend. Your act of worship might be telling a joke when you don’t necessarily feel like it, making it a point to laugh even when all you want to do is cry. Worshipping God can be as easy as eating, sleeping, or putting one foot in front of the other, despite not getting the earthquake you prayed for.
We don’t have to act like everything is all right, because it isn’t. But we can keep going. We can keep moving, one day at a time.
Worship is acknowledging and recognizing God’s sovereignty and lordship over space and time, life and death, and everything else in between. We can worship God by singing words that reflect these beliefs. We can worship by giving to a local church even when our budget is tight. We can also worship God by taking a shower. Getting up when we just want to give up. I can’t think of a better way to recognize the Creator’s control than simply saying, “I’m going to live life even when it seems impossible.”
God sees your shaking hands as they splash water across your cheekbones. He sees you throw the covers off on an icy morning. He sees the weary smile.
He also sees the tears. Don’t forget that He sees the tears. You honor Him by stumbling through the mud, the fog. The pain might not ever fully disappear in this life, but worship means we take time to remember the promise of the Future.
I mentioned earlier that Elijah found himself on a mountain called Horeb. Horeb is generally considered to be another name for Mount Sinai—the place where God initiated His covenant relationship with the Israelites after delivering them from Egyptian slavery. By leading him to Horeb, God subtly reminded Elijah of His past faithfulness. Even though the present seemed bleak, God didn’t forgot about the prophet’s ancestors. He wouldn’t forget Elijah either.
In the same way, God delivered us from the slavery of sin through the sacrifice of Jesus. He didn’t forget about us then, He won’t forget about us now. God came to earth and bathed Himself in the human experience. Friends rejected Jesus. The justice system let Him down. Death wrung all the pain it could muster from our Lord’s body. Yet, He kept going. Because of Jesus’ faithfulness, we can keep going too.
We can get up tomorrow.