There are so many things my mom did for me, but the greatest thing she did for me was set an example for how to live for God. She not only told me how to pray and worship, but she showed me. It amplified my desire to instill this love in the people in my life, and eventually my own kids. We often think of worship as a song on Sunday. We can minimize worship when we compartmentalize it to only ten minutes worth of our Sunday dose of God. Worship is not just a few songs, but it’s how we live in our decisions, words, habits, and hearts. My mom lived the lifestyle of worship. But it wasn’t a path paved with a white picket fence, flowers, and bright sunshine; it was real life (the good and the bad). I found worship in every role she played: mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister, and mentor. She was always an inspiration to everyone who watched, especially when it came to worship. But when she was diagnosed with cancer, her worship didn’t change. In fact, it increased and I saw her relationship with God dig deeper before my eyes. I saw her press into God in the middle of her questions, fears, wonders, confusion, and her worship taught me a few things:
- Worshiping Him comes first. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus is in Martha and Mary’s home. We know that Martha is busy making preparations (this today might look like frantic stress of staying on top of what’s to come tomorrow). She becomes frustrated, but Jesus calls to her attention that Mary has chosen what is better: listening to Jesus’ words at his feet. Putting Him first looks different for everyone depending on certain seasons of life. You might not have an hour of quiet time, but find small moments in your day to make Him the priority of your life. When He’s not first, we’ll become distracted from our worship.
- Worship is not circumstantial. It’s easy to go through easy or hard seasons and not rely on God. We might go through good seasons and “not need” God, and it’s tempting to fill our empty spaces with physical things. In one of her journal entries, she wrote, “When we face struggles and challenges we can fight it, get angry, turn from God, or withdraw. God’s plan is for us to accept our circumstances and humble ourselves under His hand so that we take the pain, struggle, fear, and move into the position with our circumstance under God’s sovereign, loving hand. In this positioning we will experience peace in the middle of life. At the right time (God’s time), He will lift us up.” She walked this unconditional love for God out not only in her journey through cancer, but also in her life before the diagnosis.
I think of Paul and Silas when they worshiped in prison. I find it hard to wrap my brain around two men worshiping in prison (I think I’d be throwing myself a pity party and then jumping in a puddle of tears). But their chains were broken through their worship, and ours has the power to do the same. I’d chose to be made free over a pity party any day; and yes, that is easier said than done.
Even though she walked this life of worship my whole life (and before I was born), this past year was a bold chance for me to tangibly see this. My mom deepened her worship like never before during her walk through cancer. But in any type of hard season (whatever this looks like for you), it’s not enough to go through it with the same spiritual mindset you had in some of your best seasons. We have to fight harder and dig into God deeper. This not only gives Him glory during your hard seasons, but it also allows you to find a new strength in God like never before.
- Worship is authentic and transparent. Embrace the hard parts of life all because you can depend on God to pull you through each moment. The hard ones aren’t fun. Tell God. I believe this is the essence of worship: that it’s completely transparent, a mix of the human heart, and a godly soul. We can bring our raw emotions and bring our questions to God; we don’t have to pretend we aren’t humans with emotions and perfect days. There are days life is completely unfair, and being a Christian doesn’t mean we have to pretend that our unfair days are held together by perfection. Let me tell you, it takes a load off your shoulders when you take your God-given emotions to God. He meets you there. By living like this, we are giving God a chance to see right through us, but we are the ones responsible for presenting this authenticity, because He can already see those dark places of our hearts but He wants to mend them. We can come stained with sin and he purifies us. John 4:8 promises that we can take a step toward God and He meets us there and we can move forward, and not linger in our struggles!
Here are a few of my mom’s journal responses of authenticity:
“This morning is hard emotionally. Emotions of all of this just came at me. It all just stinks!! I don’t have hair. I am so ready to have hair. It gets consuming dealing with the side effects. I let myself cry more about it than I have before. I realized I have to give myself more of these times to grieve what I am going through.” (May 14, 2015)
“So many feelings and some just too hard to put into words. Thank you God I can pour out my heart to you. You take my thoughts and feelings and make them obedient to Your Word. You strengthen me in your grace to move on. Moving Forward!” (May 27, 2015)
- Worship is being thankful. This is the most valuable thing I could ever take away from my mom’s worship. This is what worship is: it’s thanking God for who He is. You’ll notice that if you list off things you’re thankful for, it shifts our focus off of ourselves and onto God’s wonderful provision for even the simplest things. Thankfulness literally invites the presence of God. My mom listed being thankful for the strength to go to Target in one of her journal entries. There is always something to be thankful for (also the most annoying statement to hear when your life is a mess), but I challenge you to not be surface-level with God. Find something that is truly meaningful. It is our greatest joy to give God glory because He is good.
We can also show thankfulness by being content. Philippians 2:14 tells us to Do everything without complaining or arguing. Discontentment with what God has in place in our lives right now will stop us from worshipping Him.
Thankfulness can also fuel our trust in God. When we step back and thank Him for the big and small things He’s doing in our lives, it allows us to see that He does care, and He does see us even when we feel unseen. We can rely on Him to care for us in our low places (Psalm 112:7).
- Worship is our choice. We know this, but it’s just difficult. And a lot of times it goes against our human emotions and desires. But if we take our selfish thoughts about everything that’s going wrong and make them obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), we are gradually transforming the way our mind thinks (Romans 12:2). We are making worship what we run to instead of our natural human desires. As we choose to keep our natural thoughts and desires under the submission of the Holy Spirit, we are worshiping God. We have a choice to draw from our human strength (normally negative thoughts or stress), or we can draw from God’s almighty strength. It seems like a no-brainer when we compare those two options, but doing it is the real challenge. When we incorporate these ideas together in our walk with God, we’ll see our worship transform. And God delights in giving grace to us in our process.