Recently, one of the elders of our church passed away from COVID. Soon afterward, the special-needs daughter of one of my close college friends passed away, followed by his dad a few days later. And another one of our friends is currently in the hospital in critical condition with COVID. We all have loved ones or know someone affected by COVID – either emotionally, physically, psychologically, or all of the above. None of us has escaped its impact.
In light of all this, is the idea of worship a relevant topic for right now? Should we be focusing on other more pertinent issues, such as how to handle suffering, how to comfort others, or (even more practically) how to live a healthy life?
The concept of worship, believe it or not, addresses all three of these. In Scripture, those who were faithful to God worshipped him, even in the most difficult times. When the king’s edict threatened Daniel’s life, he continued to pray (Daniel 6:10). When Job endured extreme and unjust suffering, he maintained his integrity and refused to curse God (Job 2:9–10). And when Paul and Silas were beaten and bound in a Philippian jail, they sang praises (Acts 16:22–25). Each of these responses honored God for who he is, despite the circumstances. And, as a result, each of these men experienced God’s power in an amazing way.
In worship, we find comfort too. When we connect with God in worship, we connect with the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4). If we truly want to comfort others in their suffering, we must first be comforted by the God of comfort — not hiding or denying our pain, but bringing it to him as we connect with him through worship.
And how does worship help us live a healthy life? Increasingly, many of the ailments we experience in this day and age are rooted in anxiety. The antidote for this is not a prescription but a practice:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:4–7
Rejoicing is the voluntary declaration of the joy we have in God, a joy that is not swayed by circumstances. When our thoughts, emotions, and actions are driven by circumstances, we have little control over our experience of them. But when our lives are centered on worship, on understanding who God is and believing that he is always good, always loving, and always Father, no matter the situation, we can experience his peace.
Worship may not take away the pain of life’s storms, but it directs our attention to “the anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19), aka the hope we have in him, which keeps our ship from being broken apart on the rocks of life’s heartaches. It has been said that each of us is either experiencing a crisis right now, just coming out of one, or about to head into one. Regardless of where you are on your journey, worship is the right response. You were not meant to face your storms alone. You were not even meant to face them with the support of others. You were made to find strength, comfort, and joy in the faith-filled expression and exercise of worship. For, in the end, worship is far more than song and ritual. It is focusing on and celebrating the ever-present reality beyond our circumstances. It is the intimate experience of a Father’s love who wants to comfort and support you amid your trials. In the difficult days we are currently passing through in our nation and our world, nothing could be more relevant.