Sustaining Worship Through Adversity

Worship veteran Brian Doerksen explains why praise—and a God-given dream—often comes with pain.

In Nehemiah we find a man who had a dream, but whose dream came at great cost and with much opposition. Many of us in ministry can relate to Nehemiah’s story. Although we may be close to fulfilling our dream, we never imagined it would cost this much or that things would get so tough.

Why is following our God-given dream so difficult? I believe there’s a threefold reason.

1. Because we will be opposed. I take courage and comfort in knowing that Nehemiah was taunted and mocked but stayed the course.

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2. Because people will let us down. Nehemiah 5 describes how other leaders selfishly were using the crisis for their own advantage.

3. Because we will face disappointments. What disappointments have brought you close to giving up on your God-given dream? For me, it was the birth of our sixth child.

In 1998 we had four girls and one boy, Benjamin, who had Fragile X Syndrome. We believed God was inviting us to take the risk of faith to have another child, and we prayed for another son who would not have Fragile X. God gave us a wonderful gift, Isaiah Robert; but he arrived with Fragile X.

He is almost 9 years old now, is still in diapers and hasn’t spoken more than a couple words. He needs fairly constant supervision and limits our family activities considerably. But we wouldn’t trade him for anything. In fact, through people with special needs we often see God’s grace in surprising ways.

We need that grace to endure tough times; yet finding the strength to actually worship during those seasons is another matter. Many times I’ve been reminded that God is more interested in my character than in my comfort.

Part of that process involves letting go of certain expressions of worship that are only sustained by our need to impress. And that means being honest with how we’re really doing, not putting on your Sunday smile when you’re dying inside.

Worship isn’t floating through life on a cloud of bliss. Worship is surrender. It’s singing while cleaning up after one more trip to the bathroom to change a dirty diaper. (Due to our two boys’ special needs, I’m almost 20 years into that joy!)

Once we find the strength to worship, how do we then sustain this posture in the middle of adversity? I believe it often starts by reaching out to others who are also going through adversity. We can always find someone else who’s going through tougher stuff than we are.

Nehemiah helped the poor as he restored the walls and fought against discouragement caused by his enemies. We can do the same. Somehow, each of our lives needs to touch the poor in some positive way. This increases our gratitude, and a spirit of gratitude sustains us through the tough times.

A final thought: Sustaining worship at the expense of your family is actually sustaining religious performance, not real worship. Those of us called to the ministry of worship have no business leading God’s people in songs of devotion to God if we aren’t devoted to our spouses. Sustaining worship is all about sustaining relationship because worship is a relationship of surrender with God.

May God strengthen us and help us to be worshipers through all the challenges that are sent our way. Like Nehemiah, may we be faithful to God and love those around us as we continue the adventure of worship.

Brian Doerksen is a worship leader and songwriter whose songs include “Come, Now Is the Time to Worship.” He and his wife, Joyce, and their six children live in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

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