When Worship Hurts

Oftentimes when I am deep in the throes of depression, worship is an absolutely agonizing experience. Many of us know the privilege of being so awed and overwhelmed by our God during worship that tears come to our eyes. But imagine if you could not stop crying during worship – if you did nothing but cry and couldn’t even sing. Imagine this crying accompanied by tremendous pain. This is frequently my experience while depressed.

I believe in praising God in (during, not for) our trials. The sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15) is precious to the Lord and is a good discipline for all of us. And it’s never so much a sacrifice as when we are suffering. But, why are there times when worship hurts?

For me, I’ve come to understand a few reasons why it hurts. One reason is that when I worship, I am reminded of how amazing our God is. He is completely powerful, reigning over all – nothing happens without Him allowing it. This is a glorious and comforting thought. But, the flip side of this is that God is in control of everything but is allowing my suffering to continue, even after three and a half years. Why would He do that when He could stop it? He loves me; why is He letting this happen?

Another reason is that there are so few worship songs that reflect anything other than perfect happiness. There aren’t many that praise the Lord through sorrow, that acknowledge that one can be in the depths of the pit and still worship. And those that do exist are almost never played in a church. This is so odd to me since there are a number of Psalms that reflect David’s crushing sorrow and they still worship the Lord.

This deluge of “happy” worship songs sometimes make it feel like I am less of a Christian because I can’t work up those kinds of feelings. I can’t sing those songs honestly, and that is painful, too. What’s wrong with me?

This is especially upsetting to me, because some of my best times with the Lord are worshipping in my car. These are some of the most awesome quiet times I have, especially when I’m really sick and can’t concentrate on much else.

I can’t think of any other reasons right now, but I am sure there are more. If you’ve got any more, please share in the comments.

I wish I had an answer as to how to make worship stop hurting, but I don’t. I only know that I can push through it and wait until I’m not so depressed and it hurts less.


35 thoughts on “When Worship Hurts

  1. Rachel,

    I think you know that I can completely understand your feelings/thoughts here. It is so difficult during not only straight depression, but even more so during those “mixed states” when the thoughts are dark and depressing, but the mind is racing, irritable and agitated in mania.
    This affliction we have (Bipolar II) is so confusing and disheartening at times I have screamed at God to just take it away. In those times when He has allowed me to come to my lowest, to be completely broken before Him and I cry out to Him in that way, it is when I hear from Him most deeply and sincerely; and when He reveals Himself anew the most.

    I find for me that it is “for” the tribulations/trials I do praise Him. Often “in” those mixed agitated states it is impossible to praise Him. Trust Him yes, but I can’t always get past the agitation and irritability to find praise.

    But, what gives me hope is this –

    Romans 5:3-5 “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulations produce perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

    When you read the whole thing, “in”, does mean “for” or “because of”. I’m not happy that I have to go through them, I don’t want to and would rather not, especially “in” (during) them. But I am glad God allows me to go through them because of what they produce. Because I know (revelation from God) that He is working all things for my good, I can persevere, and as He does get me through those times, it does build my character, I see the growth in my understanding of Him, and that produces hope in me.

    Honestly I think that worship on a personal level is supposed to be painful at times. It produces brokenness in us, makes us give up the struggle and depend fully on Him because we have nothing left of us. Which, is precisely where He wants us.

    Don’t know that I answered any questions, but I can express I feel the same way many times. There is seldom a time of worship that for some reason He brings me to tears and keeps me there in wonder and amazement that He chooses to love me at all.

    Ours’ is an awesome God. What He has accomplished for us doesn’t change. Doesn’t matter if I feel like He loves me today or not, He does. Doesn’t matter if I believe today that the world is round, it is. Doesn’t matter if I go nuts and forget that my name is Scott and think I’m Bob, I still am Scott, that doesn’t change. His grace, His salvation, His character, His indwelling through His Spirit. These things do not change. He is faithful, even when we’re not.

    Hope I at least provided some measure of encouragement in knowing that you’re not alone in this.


    P.S. – Like it over here better. (Word Press) Just an easier and to me more user friendly format. At least from a reader and commenter stand point.

  2. “There aren’t many that praise the Lord through sorrow, that acknowledge that one can be in the depths of the pit and still worship.”

    I agree, that most are of the happy/wonder/awe variety, but I can think of two off the top of my head that address sorrow:

    “Bring The Rain” by Mercy Me
    “Valley Song” by Jars of Clay

  3. BWB: valley song is one of my absolute favorites. i’m so glad you mentioned it. i also like praise you in the storm by casting crowns, and blessed be your name by matt redman. i can’t think of any more but i think there are at least a few more.

    i haven’t heard bring the rain, but i’ll have to look for it.

  4. dewd: i know you know. i so appreciate your comments. you are so right about the mixed state. yuck. i think it’s the worst of all, with plain depression a close second.

    regarding in vs. for: in the midst of the flood, i confess i have a hard time thanking God for it. but, when it’s passed, or when i’m up on a rock and out of the water, my perspective changes and i can thank Him for. i’m still not always thrilled with the mechanism by which He accomplishes things, but i am so so thankful for what He accomplishes. i walk in a freedom with Him that i’ve never ever known – that i didn’t know was possible. that’s worth a lot of suffering.

    glad you like the new spot. i like that gravatars work (the little pictures. get one at http://www.gravatar.com).

  5. Rachel, thanks for the info on gravatars. I hopefully should have a face now. 😀 This whole blog thing is new to me.


  6. Computers are goofy! gravatar made me have a name without the caps, but the gravatar comes up with the caps? Go figure. Oh well! Just something else to make me crazy. But, here’s my smiling face.


  7. Are you taking meds? My wife takes a pill a day for an underactive thyroid and I take one for depression.

    I don’t feel drugged and it makes my life normal.

    I have been told I have gifts of the Spirit……I surender my life every morning to the Lord freeing Him to work in me and my life. People have told me I have the gift of encouragement. A person with depression encouraging others…go figure….only the Lord can do that. It’s Him through me.

    This isn’t meant as….Glory, Glory me…..but to show God can use us even on meds.

    Physical problems cause these conditions and medication can correct to some degree the physical problem.

  8. Oh boy am I on meds! We are trying to find that just right cocktail to address all my symptoms. We just aren’t there yet.

    I finally surrendered to the Lord about meds about a year ago. That’s when I went to the psychiatrist and found out that I am bipolar II. I also have an under active thyroid, and am due for another test. If that’s not right it can mess with mental illness (aggravate it big time for some folks).

    I’m fortunate that I don’t feel drugged. I do have a fear in the back of my mind that I might get to the point where I don’t feel anything. But I am going to trust the Lord to find the needle I need in the haystack of medication combinations and options.

    I couldn’t agree with you more, James. For some people, this is a real medical condition, not a spiritual one. The church is far to quick to jump to the conclusions of Job’s counselors – “you’re in sin.”

    I’ve also been told I have the gift of encouragement. Maybe our suffering makes us better encouragers, because we know that God can work in any circumstance and bring us forth as gold!

    I totally understand what you are saying, and I thank you so much for participating in the conversation. I hope you stick around and keep contributing! 🙂

  9. In a scene from the Thornton Wilder play The Angel That Troubled the Waters. A doctor approaches the pool of Bethesda mentioned in John chapter 5 so that he may be healed of his melancholy or depression. The angel forbids the doctor from entering the water, saying:

    “Doctor, without your wounds, where would your power be? It’s your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched on this earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.”

    I am thankful that He values “wounded soldiers.

  10. James, you go to http://www.gravatar.com and set up an account there. It will have you upload a picture and Then whenever you post a comment using that email address, that’s the picture that will show up.

    It’s interesting that you bring up Hosanna. (My favorite version is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7SMUf6QcyQ ). I love love love that song, but I sob the whole way through it.

    Hosanna is a messianic cry of adoration and worship. it’s what the crowds sang to Jesus on Palm Sunday. But, it also means “save now!” And I think I cry so much during the song because I am so ready to be saved from my circumstance. I am begging the Lord: save me now! Jesus, save me now!

  11. Yeah, the lack of songs that reflect anything other than pure happiness also gets to me also. It’s sort of funny that you should mention that because I was thinking about that very issue just the other day. I went to church and one of the songs they sang during worship was “I Saw The Light” which features the lyrics…

    I saw the light I saw the light
    no more darkness no more night
    Now Im so happy no sorrow in sight
    Praise the lord I saw the light.

    And while everybody else was singing it and being very happy I was thinking to myself how utterly and completely untrue the song was. It kind of bothered me. 😐

  12. Rachel,

    You are such a geniune, loving and knowledgable Spiritual believer. Your postings are so deep and rich. I get blessed every time I read one.

    I don’t know why we have to suffer in this life. A person once told me the things in this life prepares us for what the Lord has for us in the next.

    From the little bit I know of you…..I believe you will be sitting in the front row.

    I don’t know if this is taboo…but I’m on lexapro and I think at times….I don’t feel as much as I use to……this is a minor concern of mine.

    I started out in 1983 with depression and moved on to panic attacks.

  13. Rachel,

    Do you find God moves on your prayers for others?

    I’ve found many times wounded people have successful prayer lives…..a gift of prayer…not every prayer…..but God honors quite a few of your prayers for others.

    You find people reaching out to you for prayer quite often.

    It’s almost like compensation. My wife is often bringing me requests for prayer from others.

    My wife’s friend has been seeing a medication specialist and he has helped her. Too many doctors just load a person up with meds…like a shotgun effect. She has had more clarity and a more emotional stable life through his help.

    It’s my prayer that they will get you on just the right cocktail through the guidance of the Great Physcian.

    Three postings without a reply…..I guess I’m not hitting on anything common with the other bloggers.

  14. james, sorry i haven’t responded sooner! busy and tired. things around here are a bit quiet. i don’t have quite the readership of other blogs you may visit. but i sure enjoy the dialog. 🙂

    as for where i’ll be sitting: so far away i won’t be able to see the front row! i don’t say that to be modest; it’s just the truth! i’m not a model christian or even a good example to follow. but i love Jesus and i love His Word. i fail at being loving so often; i have to confess it is often not my first impulse. but Jesus has victory there as well sometimes. i do try to be genuine, and i’m more so here than anywhere else i guess.

    no taboos here, except maybe for bad pictures, etc. i’ve heard good things about lexapro, but i think there’s a danger with all meds that they might take us to a place where we have no feelings at all, which is at least as bad (i imagine) as having depressive feelings. i’m sorry you are dealing with that and you definitely need to talk to your doctor.

    oh, here’s another taboo: none of us are doctors (unless one shows up that is) so we shouldn’t give medical advice to each other. suggestions are ok, talking about what works for us is ok, but no medical counsel other that “go to you doctor!”

  15. i confess i am not much of a prayer warrior and my prayer life consists mostly of “Lord, save me!” and “I believe! Help my unbelief!” and a lot of groanings in my spirit which cannot be uttered.

    i think God has given me though a special gift of compassion. i want to reach out to the hurting, to call them or do something tangible. i do find myself moved to pray immediately for certain needs/people, but not necessarily long term. though, i do feel guilty about that.

    thank you so much for your prayers about the medication. i’m having a really hard time the past couple of days and am not sure where it’s that i need more/new meds or just because i miss my grandma and am dealing with that without my family around me (they are 7 hours away).

    and please keep posting!!!

  16. Jesus doesn’t want you to feel guilty. We expect much more from ourselves than He does. You are carrying a full load. He just wants us to stay close to Him. We can converse with Him through out the day. They don’t have to be formal in prayers. A prayer is just talking to God.

    At times when I have felt like I was slipping away….I have just cried out ……HELP….and He has responded.

    He is over joyed with anything we share with Him.

    “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” Surrendering to Him each morning…”I surrender my life completely over to You Lord.” frees Him to work in and through us…..He begins to change us from the inside out. He is our only hope.

    Your Grandma is probably talking with Jesus right now. Think of all the things she is going to have to share with you the next time you see her.

    As you grow older the years fly by and you see this life is just a vapor….it’s all about eternity. If we think it’s all about this life…we are always going to be disappointed.

    I use to be a big sports fan and I equate this life to a sports teams training camp before the season starts.

    You are very wise for a young lady. I was surprised at your age when I looked at your pictures. The Lord will put someone in your life to help fill the void your Grandma left. I was very close to my Grandma and she died at 54 and I was 12 yrs old. I still miss her. So I understand. The great news is we will see them again.

  17. Very good discussion here Rachel.

    I love worship music but, like you, very often it is very painful for me to hear. Sometimes I can push past it and other times I have to turn it off.

  18. Jessica,

    I think the author of “I Saw the Light” was expressing true and honest feelings. When we first come to the Lord it is a wonderful feeling not to be alone anymore. We might be married…we might have a family….be in a family…..but we humans have limitations towards our loved ones. We make mistakes and even hurt the ones we love the most. Sometimes we just can’t be there for each other….but the Lord is always there….if we just acknowledge Him and reach out to Him.

    For most people there a a season of pure happiness when we first come to the Lord. So much so that we can become annoying to others. But then the times of the bumpy dirt road set in. After that we have a combination of smooth and bumpy and pot holed road…sometimes….deep muddy ground until we leave this life and go to be with the Lord.

    Those times we have left here on earth are filled with heartache and times of joy…….times of disappointment and times fun.

    Getting back to the point…..I don’t think the writer was being dishonest…..just expressing there feelings of that season.

  19. Rachel,

    If you were my daughter I would wish you were closer than 7 hours away.

    Going to see the doctor about your meds is a good idea. I think losing my Dad was the major strain that pushed me into the emotional problems.

  20. James said, “I think losing my Dad was the major strain that pushed me into the emotional problems.”

    can you explain more?

    My mom died about 8 months ago. I seem to be struggling with depression, more so now than I have since I was younger. I am really fighting it…but at times I feel it is stronger than I am.

  21. james: great explanation on i saw the light. i find it interesting that the song says “no sorrow in sight.” but who knows what’s waiting out of sight? i think it was spurgeon who said “God cannot us a man greatly until He has wounded him deeply.”

    my mom and dad wish i was closer, too. i’m having a hard few days but it’s hard to tell whether it’s because i am just stressed from all this and it will pass, or whether it’s permanent. that’s the tough part.

    dusty: praying for you. are you taking medication right now? have you prayed about that as an option?

  22. Rachel, You are away from your mom and dad, but do you have other family or close friends near you? Are they any encouragement to you?

    Still remembering you and your family in prayer.

  23. As Rachel’s dad, I can say we have been praying for years that the Lord would make a way for her to move here to Oklahoma to live with us. However, our heavenly Father as saw fit not to answer that prayer at his time. He has a plan and a purpose for Rachel even in her suffering as you can see from those she ministers to on this blog. I would rather that she not suffer and have made that know to God; however, He has saw fit in His infinite wisdom to leave things the way they are for now. So we continue to pray and seek His face…

  24. You could be in a dangerous position. When I lost my Dad…..and experienced job stress….I wish I had gone on some meds. I think I could have avoided some permanent damage. My wife went on meds for six months and they really helped her though the loss of her Dad. She was able to slowly come off them and she is fine. Just taking them temporarily could help you through this tough time.

  25. Rachel,

    I’m sorry. I miss read Dusty’s comment on not being on meds & thought it was you.

    Many blogs have the names first…..as to who is submitting. I goofed big time…..sorry again.

    I guess I was distracted about whether I should be shaving off the gotee and a little concerned about jauntice…..do I look a little yellow in my picture?

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