The Reflective and Determinative Nature of Worship

That’s it. That’s how I feel.

There have been so many times I have participated in a worship service and found myself thinking those words. We will sing a song together, and as the music began to wash over me – through me – that I have realized that the lyrics I am hearing and also singing are an articulation of what I’ve been feeling.

This is one of the great and beautiful gifts of music. Especially congregational music. It’s that the lyrics give voice and clarity to the muddled up thoughts and emotions in my mind and heart. When we sing songs together as the body of Christ, we find the words we need to express what we can’t seem to on our own. Not only that, but we find those words couched in beauty. In music. Through someone else’s gift, we can find expression of our own hearts.

In this way, worship is reflective. It’s reflective of all those things we are feeling but can’t rightly express. It’s through worship that we join our hearts together in a unified, verbal expression of pent up desires, fears, faith, and everything in between.

Just consider, for a moment, the songs the church has gravitated towards during COVID-19. Facts and Trends recently ran an article which details ten of the songs the church has been singing during a mostly quarantined time together, and the results are fascinating. Churches have moved toward songs that reflect God’s certainty; songs that show His unchanging purpose and steadfast love and faithfulness. According to the article:

“The word “will” was most popular, showing up 183 times total (25 times in God will make a way, 22 times in Everlasting God and 18 times in He will hold me fast). It conveys hope and trust in what God will do.”

In a time of great insecurity, of change and unpredictability, we as Christians hold onto the belief that God is secure. Is unchanging. And our music, as we sing it together even in isolation, is reflective of that fact. These songs give voice to what we believe and provide an avenue for both expression and reminding that what we believe is still true. So we sing these songs, and we think together:

That’s it. That’s how I feel.

But worship is not only reflective; worship is determinative. What we sing gives shape to the present.

Here’s what I DON’T mean by that – I don’t mean that we can somehow praise something into existence. That we can sing songs about victory and all our circumstantial problems will go away. This is not some name it and claim it worship methodology. What I mean is that when we sing, our understanding and perspective on the present is shaped.

When we sing together, we are not only reflecting what we feel; we are determining what we feel. We are efforting to being our feelings in line with the reality of what we know to be true about God from His Word. See, the problem with our emotions is that they are corrupted by sin, just as every part of us is. We might know the truth, but that doesn’t mean we feel the truth. Part of growing in Jesus is recognizing this disparity, that there is a gap between what we know and what we feel. And submitting ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus means not only submitting our actions, but doing our best to submit our feelings as well.

Worship, particularly worship through song, helps to bridge our emotions with our knowledge; our hearts with our heads. When we sing what is true about God, about Jesus, about the future – we are telling our souls who is the boss. We are not just giving praise to God, we are instructing our souls how to feel. We are aligning ourselves with what is true, regardless of what we feel.

When we begin to realize that, we start to see that worship is not only how we express what is true; it’s how we fight for our hearts to feel what is true. So, Christian, when you sing, sing what you feel. Let these time tested songs give voice to the faith we have. But also allow these songs to shape you. Sing what you ought to feel, and submit yourself to the transformational power of God’s truth.

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