One of the things I get to do with my time is serve as the pastor of a worship ministry called Revere (Facebook, Twitter). As best we can we try to answer questions related to worship.
This week I answered a message from a worship leader wondered when it was ok to take a break. They wanted to because they felt spiritually dry and unready for such a big responsibility. At the same time the leader felt a mixture of guilt and pressure to continue serving. Below is my response.
My first thought is that when God calls us to something we will seldom feel spiritually ready. I also think that’s a good thing. In my experience I have found that God tends to use people who feel incapable, unready or inadequate. Why? So that his power will be made perfect in their weakness (2 Cor 2:19). In other words God puts us in challenging situations so that He can continue to grow in us a power that comes from relying, drawing, and depending on Him.
If you feel spiritually unready you are in a good place to grow. In fact I would go as far as to say that the minute we feel spiritually capable we often need to ask one of two questions. Either we need to ask where God is calling us to step out next so we can continue to serve Him, be challenged, and grow. Or, we need to ask if we have come to fall in love with the comfort of our present circumstance instead of relying on God to do, “immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20).
Personally I know how scary relying on God can be. It’s one of those things that are easy to say but hard to even consider. Afterall, our own abilities are always within our grasp. Often, we have an idea of what we can and cannot do. God on the other hand can withdraw his favour at any given moment. We can’t control His presence or his blessing and it’s hard to trust in things that we cannot control.
A big question have to ask ourselves in such situations then is what kind of God do we serve? Does He draw us into discomfort for a good reason or is he a taskmaster? Is He fickle with those who put their trust in Him or is he faithful? Is He loving or is He capricious? Those are questions that you have to ask your head but even more so your heart. Your head may know what it wants to believe but your heart can still resist. Your head may be ready to step out in faith but your heart may still have reservations. It’s ok to have conversations with your heart. It’d say it’s healthy. In fact I’m pretty sure that’s what the Psalmist is doing in Psalm 42. Take a look at verse five!
Drawing Near The Heart of God
So, where is your heart? One thing I know is that ministry is one of God’s primary ways of drawing our hearts into deeper relationship with Himself. That the more we rely on God the more intimate we become with him. I think of Jesus’ great commission in Matthew 28:19-20 where he tells us to make disciples of all nations. After he tells his disciples to do this he promises them that as they obey He will surely be with them till the end of the age. I am convinced that often I fail to get a full taste of God’s presence because I have decided to take comfort with myself and my situation over communion with Him.
In the midst of our serving Him though there can certainly be times when we tire and feel dry or in the wilderness. A good question to ask when that happens is how am I with God? If our relationship with God is strong then even though we are tired we can rest knowing that we will be pressed but not crushed (2 Cor 4:8-10). There are definitely seasons of weariness in ministry. In my short time on this earth I have rested in this promise of Jesus presence in my ministry often.
One Biblical that brings me courage in such times of weariness is the story of Elijah (1 Kings 19). He is serving God and is desperately tired and in the midst of it God sends an angel of the Lord to care for him. After that Elijah continues on he comes face to face with the presence of the Lord. And, one of the first things God asks Elijah is “What are you doing here?” It’s almost as if God is asking him, “Are you out here because of me or is it some other reason?” That is a very good question to ask. Are you in the position you’re in right now because of God or is it for some other reason? Not only do I love this question but I also love how God asks it because he whispers to Elijah. How intimate. To be able to hear someone’s whisper means that they have drawn so intimately close to you.
Elijah’s answer? In not so many words he says, “I am out here because of you God! Because I have been very zealous for the Lord God almighty” And what does God do? He tells Elijah to keep going. Somehow I feel like when Elijah left the mountain that day he knew the hope of 2 Cor 4:8-10. He knew that God wasn’t going to give him more than he could handle. But, even more than that. Even better. He knew that God was going to be with him to the very end.
There are times when we look at our relationship with God in the midst of our weariness and we find that he is there feeding us, drawing near to us, whispering in our ear, showing his presence to us. There are however times when we turn to look at our relationship with God in the midst of our weariness and and we find our relationship in a state of disrepair. Weeks of trying to solve things ourselves or other things can cause things to fray. Months of desiring to please everything but him can wear things out.
How is your relationship with God? Are you in the position you’re in right now because of God or is it something else? If your relationship is unwell are you trying to please others before Him? Are you trying to rely on or please other things before Him? When we are not plugged into God even our service to Him can draw us away from Him instead of nearer. It is also hard for God to pour favour into a vessel that is looking for approval or favour from some other source. I know that’s hard to hear, but at the same time it’s one of the first questions that I know I need to ask myself when I am weary because I know I am susceptible to falling into this trap.
In my journey when I am asked why I am in the place that I am in I hope I can answer with more frequency in the same way that Elijah did when he was out in the wilderness. That I can whisper back to the God that is near enough to hear me with more frequency and certainty that it is because I have been, “very zealous for the Lord God almighty” (1 Ki 19:14).
There is Rest for the Weary
So we can definitely get weary in ministry and that’s ok if God is the one that has brought us there. However, another possible reason for our weariness could be because we have not worked rest into our routine.
In a sense its good to push ourselves in ministry. Whenever we train for something we need to go past where we’re comfortable to get better. Sometimes when we train we even go to where things ache or hurt or tire us. That’s how musicians, athletes, and professionals get better and grow. I believe God desires for us to grow in maturity in Christ in the same way Coaches want to unlock an athlete’s full potential. That’s why Paul can liken his growth in Christ to training for running a race (1 Cor 9:24-27). However I believe both God and Coaches know the importance of incorporating rest when it comes developing our potential.
Coaches know to give their athletes rest days so that their bodies can recover. If they don’t athlete’s will be more prone to injury. They will desire to train less. They will not come to practice with the same joy they once did. There will always be days in an athlete’s life where it’s difficult to wake up in the morning. Days where we don’t want to get out there and need encouragement from others. However, without rest those days can increase quickly until their weight feels unmanageable. If coaches know we need rest in order to grow how much more does God!
God was the one who built the need for rest into our DNA. The first thing that God made holy in all of creation was the sabbath (Gen 2:1-3). The seventh day. A period of time for us to rest in Him. I think a large reason for this is so that we can consistently find periods of time where we refrain from working and creating and doing things in order to acknowledge that God does not love us more or less because of it. We can tie our worth in so much of what we do or how we preform or how others see us, but Sabbath rest is there to remind us that our value and or worth is not tied up in any of those things. It’s rooted in something much deeper and more foundational than that. On hope is in Christ who before we did a thing saw us as valuable enough to die for. In other words he does not save us because we are worthy but he saves us in order to make us worthy.
So there are no easy answers I’m afraid. One simple thing to ask yourself is if you have been incorporating rest into you routine. The other thing I’d encourage you to do is to talk to your heart. Ask it, “Why are you in this wilderness that you are in? Is it because of God or is it something else?” If you feel that God is with you and encouraging you to keep going then keep going! If He is far though you might need ask yourself if your heart is bound up somewhere else. Is it trying to please someone or something else? Is it trying to rely on or depend on something else? Does it long for comfort over communion? Whatever happens I hope you find yourself filled soon. My prayer for you is what Paul prayed for the Ephesians.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (EPH 3:14-19)
If you want to read more you can check out another response below. Props to Al Chu for connecting the medium of whispering with the message of intimacy!
Previous Worship Response: On Competition, Being Good Enough, and God.