In a typical congregation of the church, the atmosphere varies somewhat from week to week. On one Sunday, the crowd is good, guests are numerous, and the singing is spirited. But on another Lord’s day, many brothers and sisters are traveling, others are sick, and the people present seem reluctant to sing out. These very different experiences raise an important question: If the service fails to energize us, have we truly worshiped?
In our entertainment-driven culture, the answer seems obvious. If worship doesn’t inspire positive emotions, it isn’t worship. But is American culture a safe guide in such matters? After Job suffered the loss of his children and possessions, he “tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’” (Job 1:20-21).
Job worshiped. It was worship that pleased and honored God. The Lord said of him, “There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 2:3). But how did Job feel after offering his pleasing worship? He was “bitter in soul” and longed for death (3:20-21).
As Job discovered, the road to God’s house often leads through “the Valley of Baca” (Ps. 84:6). The Hebrew word transliterated Baca means “weeping” or “balsam tree.” (The balsam exudes tears of gum.) As the people of God, we may walk through the valley of weeping trees, but our sorrow will turn to joy.
We prefer to worship when everyone is healthy, present, and lively. However, proper worship aims not at entertaining ourselves but at honoring God. Our feelings in worship may vary from one week to the next. One Sunday may be exhilarating, and the next may be a disappointment. But what must never vary is our intense desire to offer God what he wants.