Worshiping through Discouragement: a discussion
I'm sure all of us have been there - if not yet, I trust you will be. You're a 'worship leader', and as a 'leader' there is a certain degree of pressure on you to 'lead by example' because, face it - people tend not to follow us to where we've never been. What does a worship leader do, however, in the face of great personal tragedy (i.e. - the death of a loved one), or maybe not any one huge event, but the overwhelming nature of innumerable personal disappointments that build up to where one questions the goodness of God, not 'doctrinally', but in their heart? More...Or, even in the case of - as I have somewhat regularly, working two very different jobs - when you have a really rough day at work, and then suddenly have to 'shift gears' and lead a team, and then a whole room full of people, in 'corporate worship'. How do you deal with such situations? How do you - as a worship leader - cope under such circumstances? What have you found helpful?
I know I'm not the only one who's ever dealt with this, so I suspect this conversation can be helpful for a good many of us.
I appreciate your input - check out the responses that have already been given over at my personal blog, and chime in here or there...
1st I spend some time in prayer (myself and with others) and then you just be honest. I don't think you have to be all bubbly and excitable and happy when your in the midst of a personal tragedy or just having a really rough day.
To me, the really rough day part usually gets better at a practice or Sunday morning b/c all of a sudden I'm not about to do something I absolutely love and have fun with and something that brings about significance in my life and quite simply glorifying God through music brings me joy, so that helps turn around the mediocre moods.
REALLY rough days, like after the Virginia Tech shooting, death in the family, things that shake you to the core, I think your honest about them. It was a cool God moment when I had a weekend like that and before that we had already chosen to sing "It Is Well With My Soul." Then that week I found the story behind it and it brought tremendous hope and a calming to my disgruntledness. When Sunday came around I shared the story & the meaning of the song with the congregation before we sung it.
That's why I love the lyrics in "Blessed Be Your Name" that say "You give and take away but my heart will choose to say 'Lord blessed be Your name.'" That's a really powerful line that we sometimes simply sing through. I think we can praise God even when we don't feel happy happy joy joy
I remember a time a couple years ago, when I felt like God was calling me to take new steps out in the area of corporate worship, that it seemed like everything came crashing down all at once. I went to this school of worship in Redding, CA and right in the middle of school my dad had a massive heart attack and almost died. I barely made it through the rest of the school between visits to the hospital and classes... I then had to take care of him and the whole family for almost a year. It was without a doubt a very trying time and one in which I questioned both the goodness of God both internally and doctrinally a few times! But you know what? I've never grown so much as I did then. The songs I wrote during that time have become staples in my everyday walk and ones that speak deeply of God's goodness; because I did discover that He truly is good!
I think suffering, even though it's never fun and always hard, brings out the best in us. If we could just understand that during the suffering!
I like what worshipcity said about being honest... too often we are tempted to be "professional Christians" and ignore the fact that we have feelings too. One of the best times of worship I've ever had the privilege of leading was right after one of the worst days of my life and trust me, I was in no mood to be all smiley and happy!
I like to take a trip down Psalms lane whenever I'm feeling discouraged. It's good to know that even a "man after God's own heart" struggled with discouragement, yet still praised the One who was, is and will be worthy of praise.
Personal worship bails me out every time.
Here's a unique situation/blend of personalities which I deal with within me that tend to send me over the edge regularly. I am both the Worship Leader in my church and a full time Sheriff Deputy. As a result of the latter capacity, I can show up a our practices with a bit of a chip on my shoulder from time to time. At other times, I have experienced tragic events such as fatal accidents and made death notifications to loved ones. All while working in a small mountain town where friendships run deep within the community.
What I have found is that through personal worship, (and by that I mean meeting with the worship team members, having prayer and just playing and singing a few songs just for us), God ALLWAYS!!! takes me to a place where I am ready for his service.
It has been after some of my most stressed and doubting times that I have emerged from both the service as well as practice feeling truly drunk with the Holy Sprit.
God bless all, Peace and I hope this may provide for someone.
worshipping in the pit
I remember 11 years ago as a pretty new worship leader, my husband and I had a miscarriage. Our marriage suffered in sorrow and discouragement for almost a year! It's a long story, so I'll just tell you that God was silent for a time and I was angry at Him and quite confused as to what our next step was to be. And here I was, leading worship through this! All I can say is that there was one Sunday as I was singing (I don't remember the song) I felt like I was at the bottom of a pit. It was dark and I was alone (feeling this, mind you, while in front of the body singing!) when the Lord placed on me the realization that in the dark pit of loneliness and despair, HE is there. I couldn't help but cry and worship Him, and thank Him for being with me. Psalm 139:11 & 12 says, 'If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.' Real life, real stuff, Real God.
The medieval theologian/mystics called these times the "dark night of the soul." Luther used a German phrase which communicated the idea of "coming to the end of yourself."
Of course, when you come to the end of yourself and finally admit to God, "I can't do it" -- you've come to the place that He wants you to be. That is, you've become dependent upon Him.
For some individuals this goes on for months or years, as it has in the case of myself and several of my pastoral friends. For me, I found the greatest comfort from the story of Job. In the midst of his personal tragedy he argued with his friends, defended himself -- and then argued with God!! Interestingly, Job's restoration was not immediate, but took a long time. At a minimum he had to heal from his physical distress, then his wife had to get pregnant, then 9 months -- and finally he began to see his family grow again. Same thing for his livestock, friendships, and finances!!
All of this gives perspective -- of God, of ourselves, and of others. We learn that we need Him constantly, and in every situation. In so doing, we are able to lead others on the same journey...
I'm not sure that I have a whole lot to add except that I too have been there. I agree with Mark that it is often God bringing us to end of ourselves, which is where He wants us. Those are sometimes some of the most genuinely Christian experiences in that we become utterly aware of our need for God. I've often prayed something to the effect of, "God, I'm absolutely and completely spiritually bankrupt. I'm begging for You to move, because I can do nothing without You." I sometimes pray this way even when things are going well, but in those times of desperation I come to know more deeply what it means. As a result God grows me. I also try to remember all of things that God has brought me through, and remember that He has not changed. He will not leave me. He is faithful to complete His work in me. Beyond that I just trust Him.
Great topic, Shannon ...
I have often been there .. and I've often started out a service, or done a brief segue between songs and I've stood there and said "church, I've gotta tell ya - it's been a rough week ... everything possible has come against me this week .. but I choose to worship ... I choose to lay it down ...".
I've found that the people of God RESPOND to such authenticity. They don't want a super-hero Worship Leader (hmm .. can we make a Real Men of Genius ad for that .. "mr. superhero worship leader guy?" ....)
they want someone who is real .. authentic .. who relates to them, and whom they can relate TO.
I also think of King David ... how he had to "encourage himself in the Lord". Sometimes, it's quite the sacrifice.
But specifically, your question is about how we manage to do this while being a leader ... and hopefully, I've answered it, at least for me .. .be real .. be authentic ... press in, but don't be afraid to tell the people exactly where you are, and where you want to go. I GUARANTEE that there are folks out there who will identify and embrace your soul and run with you into the arms of Christ!
I am not a worship leader - but I do lead the expressive worship team and there was a time when I was going through something that truly led me into a pit of depression. I had been in this pit before so I recognized it for what it was and did all I knew to do to fight it. - Putting on praise music - reading the Word - rebuking the enemy - prayer etc. Worship time was difficult but because I KNOW He is worthy of my praise and my faith is not based on my feelings I worshipped and praised anyway.
After a few weeks of battling nothing had changed however and my depression seemed to be getting worse, not better. Finally I said, "Enough is enough". I went to the church on a day when no one was there. I went into the sanctuary - up to the altar and got on my face before God. I told God I wasn't leaving until He took me to a place of victory. I don't know how long I lay there - I cried - I prayed and I waited. Eventually I got up and started to walk around the room - picked up a worship flag and began to praise Him. I walked - I flagged - I sang - I praised - I worshipped. I felt the weight of depression lift off of me. By the time I left I felt the joy of the Lord in my heart.
Life is hard - Jesus never promised us it would be easy! But He is faithful and He will see us through - no matter what!