A friend of mine calls himself a “recovering charismatic.” He thinks the gifts of the Spirit are still active today, but he believes the worship influence of the charismatic movement distracted his mother from getting the therapy she needed.
Looking back, he thinks his mother was an insecure, anxious woman. As he grew up, she frenetically flitted from one worship experience to the next. In the 90’s, she spent dozens of weekends in Toronto; in the 2000’s she camped at Lakeland Florida; and then later she fixated on Bethel Church. Anywhere she heard “something” was happening.
Worship music blared throughout the house unceasingly. She used its euphoric oomph to motivate her for the tiniest of tasks. It took the combined efforts of Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin simply to wipe down the kitchen counters. Don’t ask what spring cleaning required.
But she remained anxious and preoccupied with herself, largely neglecting her husband and kids. She’d say, “I just want to go where God is working,” but it seemed to my friend that she just wanted an escape, a place where her problems could be sedated.
The first time he told me of his mother’s illness, he said,
“A friend of mine became a crack addict. Frankly I don’t see much difference between him and my mom. They got their highs in different ways, but their lives remained a mess.”
And then he added,
“I wonder if modern worship is sort of like a cocaine rush.”
I was a worship leader for years, and I know the temptations of leading. I loved hearing someone say, “Wow, that worship was great; I really felt the Lord’s presence.” But now I wonder if we are missing the deeper, longer lasting purpose of worship.
I believe worship – real worship – will not distract us from our problems but heal them; not hide insecurities but reveal them; and then change our hearts to care for others.
The problem with the world is self-centeredness; from Hitler-like tyrants grabbing for power to three-year-old boys hoarding their matchbox cars from their sister. (And let’s not forget the pettiness of our own selfishness concentrations.)
Pride and self-centeredness are the cause of all wars, divorce, betrayal, theft, and most every miserable part of human history. We think of ourselves more than of others.
The Healing of Worship
Real Christian worship solves self-centeredness. It fixes our mind on the Ultimate Other. It is a heart-gaze on God, contemplating the majesty and glory and goodness of the Lord. It is consciously staring at His unimaginable love, His unstoppable power, His ultimate justice, His attention to the sparrow’s needs, and His care for least impressive of all human beings: us.
Worship is attributing ultimate value to the Ultimate Being who is ultimately beyond us; and yet who is beside us as we sit in our desk chair and in us as we wash the dishes.
Real worship involves an intense focus of heart and soul on the beauty of God. It is looking, gazing, meditating, and reflecting on the majesty of God. It is seeing Him for all He is, Lord, Master, King, Father, Shepherd, and Friend.
And seeing his glory will heal our insecurities and wounds, because we’ll finally forgive, and ultimately, repent.
Because Worship Changes Us
In The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee faces an appalling evil, his hope is spent, and he is on the cliff-edge of giving up. One evening he sees a star.
The beauty [of the star] smote his heart … and hope returned to him. For like a shaft clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end, the shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.
His song in the tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he had been thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him, and he fell into a deep untroubled sleep.
In a very similar way (in fact in the exact same way), when we let our heart gaze on the Ultimate Star, when we let His beauty and light penetrate our soul, we will be changed. Anxiety, bitterness, selfish ambition, frustration, and even self-consciousness will cease. We’ll worship and adore the Creator not us creatures.
Real worship of the real God brings real life. Our deepest bitterness, woundings, and fears do not need more self-care; not nearly as much as they need to see that Star and repent for our worldly self-obsession and resentments.
Lewis said, “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in.’ Aim at earth and you get neither.”