Devotions

Worshipping God in the Tough Times

November 13, 2017
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! … And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4, 7 (NIV)
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“It’s cancer.”

I stared at my phone screen and reread my sister Karol’s text over and over again.

She had accompanied Dad to his doctor’s appointment and promised to let me know how it went. I’d pulled into the church parking lot and was about to return to my office when I saw her text. Gasping like I’d been tackled, I doubled over against the hood of my car.

The fear that lurked in the back of my mind now fully surfaced and became reality: My father had cancer.

It wasn’t just that I loved my dad — he was my hero, my friend, my mentor in the Christian faith. He was the best man at my wedding, and as our Church of the Highlands began to grow, my dad moved to Birmingham to help us. He was deeply intertwined in every aspect of my life, and I couldn’t imagine any of it without him.

Walking on autopilot, I went to my office and shut the door. I slumped into the chair and began wrestling with unnamed feelings. As a pastor and a student of God’s Word, I had all the biblical answers and pastoral training for situations like this.

I knew God’s truth. I believed God’s truth. But suddenly … I didn’t know what to do.

Just as Daniel had been a captive of the Babylonians, I felt as though I’d been held hostage by heavy emotions I couldn’t process.

So, feeling desperate for God, I did the only thing I knew to do: I turned on some praise and worship music. That probably sounds strange. Worship and grief don’t usually go hand-in-hand. But I’d learned to practice worshipping God no matter what the circumstances.

God promises us peace that surpasses all understanding in Philippians 4:7: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” But before we get that promise, we have some instruction. Philippians 4:4 is the key that unlocks this peace: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

Worship didn’t erase my grief in the moment, but transformed it into overriding peace. A peace I could not have found any other way.

I let the goodness of who God is soothe me. I felt His power strengthen me. I sensed His presence as He comforted me. And though I knew I would grieve Dad’s cancer again and again, I took comfort in the reality I could survive this news.

During that season, while my father battled for his life, God gave me a verse to focus on: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18a, NIV).

As I reflected on this verse, I thought, Well, which is it? Will God rescue my dad from this evil attack? Or will Dad go safely into heaven?

Eventually, I realized the answer was “yes” — and both happened. His treatment successfully eradicated the disease from his body. However, the cancer returned the following year, and my beloved father passed away a few months later.

I grieved then, and I still miss him. But I find great joy knowing Dad is in heaven, and I’ll see him again someday. With God, we’re always in a win-win situation.

The pivotal moment in the whole journey of Dad’s illness was that day in my office — the day I worshipped God and refused to bow to fear, pain and despair.

If I’d chosen not to worship at that time, the world would have understood. After all, death and sickness are known to take people out for a little while.

But then, doesn’t stepping out in faith usually run counter to this world? Hearing Dad’s diagnosis felt like my Daniel-in-the-lions’-den moment. My mind told me God had abandoned me. But rather than cave to the despair of looming circumstances, by God’s grace I chose to worship Him no matter what and never bow to the pressures of life.

And you can, too.

Dear Lord, thank You that worship changes everything as it restores my perspective. Help me move from viewing my problems as big and You as small to the exact opposite — as I focus on how big my God is. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:

Daniel 6:10, “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:

In this eye-opening new book, The Daniel Dilemma: How to Stand Firm and Love Well in a Culture of Compromise, Pastor Chris Hodges provides a solution by examining the life of the prophet Daniel, who persevered in a corrupt culture closely resembling our own and emerged as an influential force in God’s redemptive plan.

CONNECT:

Enter to WIN a copy of The Daniel Dilemma by Chris Hodges. In celebration of this book, Thomas Nelson Publishers is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We'll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications to each one by Monday, November 20, 2017.}

REFLECT AND RESPOND:

Worship is respecting who God is and how He sees things. It’s acknowledging He is God and we are His creation. What draws you to worship God?

© 2017 by Chris Hodges. All rights reserved.

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