In part 1 I shared that worship–loving God back–is natural. He pours it on, and we respond. But some of us are stuck. It may be that you are wounded. Or perhaps…

You are angry.  

The elder brother hated his younger brother who destroyed the family reputation.  But he also hated his father, a gentle man who continued to reach out to him. Some are offended by the grace of God. He blesses people—you just don’t happen to be one of them.  You’re doing you best to serve God, but it doesn’t seem to be working for you.

You have unhealthy relationships.  Corporate worship is enhanced by loving relationships within the family of God.  By contrast, it is inhibited by dishonest or strained relationships. It is stifled in unsafe surroundings. Emotionally challenged people may find it hard to worship.

You are resisting the Lord.  Jesus felt welcome around sinners, but it didn’t keep him from addressing their sins.  He was full of grace, so he said to the woman taken in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you.”  But he added, “Go and sin no more.” Some people try to live outside the Lordship of Christ and still worship God.  Doesn’t work.

You are more religious than righteous.  You are trying to express love to someone that you don’t feel much love toward. The Pharisees worshipped with their lips, while their hearts were a thousand miles away.  It did nothing for God–or the Pharisees. Worship sometimes makes people get religious, like they need to perform. They want to worship God in the worst way—so they do. They maybe feel as if they need to conjure up God’s presence by feeling a certain way, as if worship is a technique. Nothing is farther from the truth. It looks to us like other people are getting into it, so maybe we try to do it like they do.  For the religious leaders, worship was duty, not delight. It was technique, style—and if you didn’t have the right routine, you weren’t worshiping.

If you are wounded, get healed. Healing is a choice.  If you are angry, acknowledge it. You must change your faulty picture of God.  If you have unhealthy relationships, you must do whatever you can to improve them.  If you are resisting the Lord, you need to repent. And if you are trying to worship out of duty, you may need a heart transplant so that you can start trusting and quit trying. In all of these, God’s desire for you overrides your desire for Him.  Even the first step toward change is met with empowering grace.

Keep in mind the following:

You may not feel comfortable when first stepping into new places of freedom in worship.  The more important question is this: Is Christ comfortable? Don’t think that you are being inauthentic because you are moving outside your comfort zone.  You are breaking into a new area, and transition is not always easy.

Secondly, your worship will not necessarily find acceptance with others.  Corporate worship calls us to certain restraints that private worship does not.  But the ultimate focus of worship is Jesus, not others. Let your private times with the Lord be your chance to experience with new ways of saying, “I love you.”


Worship, simply put, is loving God back.  No one has to teach you how to fall in love.  When I fell in love with Karen, I started doing things I had not done before—like spend money.  I used to get a headache buying a suit, but now I just wanted to say, “I love you” in as many ways as I could. The issue is not learning a technique but growing a relationship.  I enjoy spending time with God (usually). I want to say to him in different ways, “I love you.” When our family did our New Year’s resolutions sixteen years ago, nine-year old Karis said, “I want to tell Jesus every day, ‘I love you.’”

It wasn’t the religious people who touched the heart of Jesus; it was those drawn by love.  Mary wanted to say, “I love you” in a personal way. She didn’t hear that Jesus was into broken alabaster jars.  Love comes naturally. So do we watch her? No, we think of all he has done and we fall in love like she did. When love kicks in, so does creativity.  It might mean giving gifts to the poor like Zacchaeus chose to do, or washing someone’s feet like the sinner woman washed Jesus’ feet, or making up songs as David did, or pulling people out of the gutter as Mother Teresa did.  Matthew threw a party, and Jesus enjoyed being with Matthew and his buddies.

Jesus is easy to love. He makes himself available to us. He expresses kindness toward us in a hundred ways. And you are good at loving. You have it in you to love Jesus in a way that thrills his heart.  You may need permission. I needed permission to dance in church. Karis learned to do that, and I enjoyed watching it. What is your unique way of blessing the heart of the Savior? Will you go for a walk together?  Will you write him a letter? Will you sing him a song or do an act of kindness in his name?

But maybe you are saying, “It isn’t natural for me.  I try my hardest, but it just doesn’t happen.”  The fact is that some people are stuck. Issues block them from freely giving themselves to anyone—including God.  If you find yourself there, consider one of these possibilities:

You are wounded.  Some people grew up in families where certain emotions were off limits or it wasn’t a part of their culture. Maybe they were shamed into silence, and they are still not free to fully express joy or sorrow or disappointment. Perhaps your grief has caused you to look inward so long that you don’t know how to look upward. Maybe you are unable to focus on God and his goodness, because he let you down.  Your prayer wasn’t answered; your marriage wasn’t saved, your child wasn’t healed, your job wasn’t landed—and you are disillusioned. There are truckloads of people at church who would say, “God isn’t as good as the Scriptures say He is, at least not to me.” I was in a congregation once in which a father’s only son had tragically died about ten years ago. He still mourned the loss as if it were yesterday.  He appeared to be worshipping in freedom, as he sang, “I love you, Lord.” But it seemed like in his spirit he was really saying, “I hate you.” Better to face the reality and walk through pain than to live in pretense. You can be healed–and love again. (More in four days).