The following is by Pastor Rob Golding of First Artesia Christian Reformed Church.
One of the most profound spiritual moments in my life came when I was most spiritually depressed. I was in college and found myself in a serious spiritual search. I was a Christian at a Christian college, studying the Bible, and I had entered the midst of the Charismatic Movement. I was regularly with friends who saw visions, prayed for and received healings, were “slain in the Spirit,” and even prayed that pennies would stick to their dormitory walls, and apparently, they did. We even went to see a man that claimed he could transport “in his Spirit” to the Garden of Eden. He was spiritually teleporting. Even then, I was highly skeptical of much of this and have even greater concerns today. However, I have had many moments where I felt incredibly close to God as if I was in the same room with Jesus. I was not too concerned with getting pennies to stick to walls or seeing the Garden of Eden, but I wanted more of Jesus. I wanted to experience Him radically, really, tangibly.
One night, I was at a charismatic event. There were about 50 of us, all wanting to experience God (with rather different conceptions of what that might look like). As Charismatic worship goes, I was in the front of the room, on my knees, singing. I was also begging God, raising my hand in a fist, making a motion like I was knocking on a door, asking the Lord to “let me in” to where He is. This moment was the culmination of months of seeking God and feeling like I was getting nowhere: no vision, no voice, no ecstatic feeling, not even a gravity-defying penny. I did not have a red cent to my spiritual name. Nothing.
During the worship, I got up, left the room, and sat in the entry area, crying. I honestly confessed my heart to the Lord: “God, I feel like I have been doing everything you want, but you are not holding up your end of the deal. Why are you so far off? If you love me, and you are my Father, where are you?”
Immediately, this Psalm came to mind: “For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground” (Ps. 44:25). I thought, “this is exactly how I feel.” Then, I imagined myself lying face down in the dirt. It was a picture that seemed to capture the apex of spiritual depression. It does not get much lower than on the ground, face down, and in the dirt. That is where I was spiritually.
Then, as I imagined myself in this position, I thought of myself raising my hands, palms upward, over my head, as my face was in the mud, worshipping God. Suddenly, my chest began to swell. Tears filled my eyes again, but this time, they were tears of deep and abiding joy. I had an epiphany. Spiritual “success” is not measured in how I feel. Instead, it is determined by how I worship God. I did not need to spiritually teleport or have some ecstatic vision or experience some sign or wonder (in this, you can see God’s patience with me in that He actually had to teach me that lesson). I just needed to worship God in whatever state I was in. At that moment, I decided to worship God, even though my belly clung to the dust.
A little later, I read Job say, “though He slay me, I will yet hope in Him.” After that, I read CS Lewis say that God’s goal is to get us to the point where we can look around and see no evidence of Him whatsoever and say, “Still, I will worship Him.”
This lesson has been the bedrock of my spiritual journey. This grounding in truth rather than experience has been the thing that keeps me on track when I want to wander. I realized that my job is not to work my way to more extraordinary experiences of God. Instead, it is to trust Jesus. I am not supposed to pray certain words, in certain ways, with certain feelings, with great faith to unlock God’s blessings like typing a code into a lock. Rather, I am supposed to sit and wait. I am supposed to hold my Father’s hand and go when He goes, and stop when He stops. When He guides me forward in spiritual delights, I am to delight. When He stops and has me wait in spiritual darkness, I am to trust and worship.
Paradoxically, it is the worship in moments of spiritual depression that are the most profound. When you do not feel God, or you even feel abandoned by Him, yet you see yourself, almost as if you are outside yourself looking in, worshipping God with all your heart, you all of a sudden realize the gravity of your salvation. You are so saved in Jesus that you do not need an experience or happiness to worship Him. You trust Jesus so much that even when worldly wisdom says, “You are nuts! There is no God, and even if there was a God, He clearly does not care about you,” you ignore the thought like Jesus ignoring the jeering crowd as He carried His cross to Golgotha.
To whom would those words better apply than to the Son of God after He was brutalized by Roman soldiers and forced to carry the instrument of His death? What picture could you imagine that would depict being more forsaken? He is the one God cares most about and has been going through the wringer for hours. God knows everything, and He certainly knows what is going on with His Child. So, worldly wisdom says He must not care. He must be up there ignoring the fact that His only begotten Son is being tortured to death. How could He care? If He did, there is no way He would let Jesus get into this difficult, this depressing situation.
But Jesus set His face like a flint and carried on. My God, He is strong. In that moment of worship in sadness, you are experiencing some of what Christ felt. He knew He needed to march toward His death because it was worth it. And the joy of bringing many sons to glory overshadowed the pain of the cross upon His scoured back. So it is with us. When we do not feel like worshipping because we are depressed, we worship anyway, knowing that this difficult road will one day result in glory. But what is more, we worship because Jesus walked that road, and He is walking it with us right now.
Feeling as if you have been abandoned by God yet simultaneously worshiping him in the moment of despair is one of the greatest triumphs of our God-given faith. It proves that faith truly does have the power to overcome the world. Do not run from His worship in your low moments. Lean into it and let your faith grow brighter than ever; you will be standing with David, Job, and Jesus.
2 thoughts on “What Spiritual Depression Taught Me About Worship”
What a powerful post. I just began mental health counseling with the VA too, work through some issues. This post will encourage me to remain in a posture of worship no matter my current life experience/emotions. Thank you.
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Thank you much for this teaching!!!
Sooo many need to hear about the power in Praise and Worship!!! I was taught almost 28 years now n o t to live by my
feelings…Holy Spirit has been a m a z i n g
in my life and i’ll continue to praise and
worship…1st because our Xquisite Three In
One is Worthy and 2nd because Gratitude and Praise and Worship keeps me JOYful;
reading The Word is for me, Praise/Worship
is for Them…and They lead you thru
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