A Garment of Praise

Garment of Praise image.jpeg

I have had many conversations with family and friends about physical expressions of worship, the fear of being inauthentic, and what to do with our feelings and emotions.

Thoughts and questions like these: 

“What if I’m having a hard time believing the words I’m singing?” 

“Isn’t it hypocritical for me to sing about joy when everyone knows I’m grieving?”

“I felt like I wanted to lift my hands in worship, but I was worried about what others might think.”

“What if I’m only responding because I’m being influenced by everyone else?” 

These thoughts come from a desire to be genuine, which is a good thing! They are very normal questions in our journey as worshippers. Unfortunately, some of these concerns and questions cause confusion, and they can lead people to the idea that it’s better for them to just observe.  

So, let’s talk through some of these things. We’ll start with the first two questions. 

“What if I’m having a hard time believing the words I’m singing?” 

“Isn’t it hypocritical for me to sing about joy when everyone knows I’m grieving?”

In 2 Samuel 6, we remember that King David danced with abandon before the Lord. And rightfully so! He brought the Ark of the Covenant, the host of the Presence, back from the house of Obed-Edom into the City of David. Can you imagine the joy for David and the members of this city? The Ark contained the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod, and a pot of manna - all pieces of the Jews’ history where God had shown up in powerful and miraculous ways. In this moment, they were anticipating the blessings that would come from the Ark being back in their city. So it seems appropriate that David cut loose a bit! He said, “I will become even more undignified than this!” I love it! This story will forever be a beautiful representation for the Church of what it looks like to lose all concern for your own dignity as you are completely consumed with the desire to offer everything in praise. But what was more common in David’s life and ministry was the conscious choice to surrender himself in worship despite his feelings. 

In 2 Samuel 12, David pleaded with the Lord for days to spare his friend’s son’s life. On the seventh day the child died. David got up from the ground where he had prayed. After he had taken a bath, put on lotions, and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshipped. 

In Psalm 63, when David was stranded in the desert of Judah, he says, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.”

In Psalm 57, when David had fled from Saul into a cave, he writes, “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed… My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.”

In Psalm 43, David speaks to his own soul and says, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

You see, sometimes our worship is an overflow of how we are feeling towards the Father. We are overcome with joy or celebration, and it’s almost as if praise is exploding out of us. It’s easy and effortless. What sweet moments those are! But more often than not, worship becomes the path that directs our feelings in the way they should go. Worship is the place where we meet face to face with Jesus, the One who is so very acquainted with grief. Worship actually helps shift our feelings of hopelessness (specifically, feelings about God and His character). Because let’s be honest, we cannot always trust our thoughts and feelings to lead us well. In times of anxiety or grief or fatigue, we make the conscious choice to open our mouths to sing or raise our hands in praise, and we watch as our thoughts come in line with truth. My friends, this is not hypocrisy. This is us making the choice to stay the course! This is us waging war against the enemy and the lies he is throwing at us. This is how we fight our battles. 

Here are a few scenarios that could be relatable:

My friend was just diagnosed with cancer. I also know God is good. So I will sing and declare His goodness over my situation until I believe it. Faith begins to rise.

My spouse just lost their job and we have 4 children. I also know God is Provider. So I will sing and declare His provision over my situation until I believe it. Trust begins to rise.

I have just made the biggest mistake of my life, and I’m filled with shame. I also know God is Redeemer. So I will sing and declare His grace over my situation until I believe it. Hope begins to rise. 

I am walking through a divorce. I also know God has never left my side. So I will sing and declare His love over my situation until I believe it. Peace begins to rise. 

Catching on yet? 

Also, I need to add this: We are not to be afraid of our emotions, tears, or feelings of disappointment. We have to be aware of what’s in our own hearts, because God actually lives there! It is, in fact, impossible to be intimate with God without being aware of our emotions. We don’t worship to avoid our feelings. We worship as a way to process through them with a loving Father. 

Let’s look at the next couple thoughts.

 “I felt like I wanted to lift my hands in worship, but I was worried about what others might think.”

“What if I’m only responding because I’m being influenced by everyone else?” 

If I could encourage you with one thing regarding the fear of what others think, it would be this: An offering of worship is solely about you and the Father. It’s not about the songs being played. It’s not about the style of music or the denomination. It’s about this sacred moment in time where we have gathered to honor Him. If you were face to face with Jesus in the flesh, what would you give Him - physically, verbally, sacrificially? What would you talk to Him about? What would it look like if you walked into a worship setting and your only concern was encountering Him?

So, it’s time to ask Him what He desires of you. And if you don’t feel the freedom to respond in the way He is calling you, why is that? Have you created rules for yourself? Maybe it’s time to surrender those limitations. Also, if you’re wondering what this is supposed to look like, we have the perfect example right in the Word of God! He paints a beautiful picture of what worship looks like privately, corporately, and in the throne room. There will always be new songs and styles, but I believe our response should look the same as it did then. And my favorite part is this: He has given us this gift of worship because He longs to connect with us. He wants to spend time with us, to be close to us, to give us hope. What a good Father! 

Here are a few verses that can show us how to participate with Him in worship:

Ephesians 5:18-19 - Be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. 

Psalm 100:1-2 - Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. 

Psalm 149:1 - Praise the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people. 

Psalm 95:6 - Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

Psalm 149:3 - Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.

Psalm 47:1 - Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. For the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth.

Psalm 134:2 - Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.

Friends, my prayer is that you begin to take hold of the weapon of worship that is available to you. May you offer your whole hearts every time there’s an opportunity to worship, and watch as your surrender in song and posture lead you into the heart and mind of Christ. We long for more of you, Jesus.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” Isaiah 61:1-3

-Emily Davis