I’ve found throughout my life that Isaiah 55:8 is oh so very true – that “My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways.” Frankly, sometimes the two aren’t even remotely similar.
So it was never on my radar that I would begin a passionate, in-depth study about worship, much less teach or write a book about it. Instead God put me in a difficult place in life and on a very intentional journey to compel me to do just that!
One night in May of 1995, I didn’t sleep – at all. Ok, what’s the big deal, right? The big deal is that little did I know (thankfully) that it would be the first night of a long battle with severe chronic insomnia – where I would literally sleep 30 minutes a night for the next seven years.
I wish I were exaggerating. If anything is exaggerated, then it might be that I didn’t always get that 30 minutes of light dozing right before my alarm went off to get our daughters up for school.
It never skipped my notice, or those of the sleep doctors I saw, that I shouldn’t be functioning at all. I remember being questioned strongly on a first appointment with one doctor: “Did you walk in here?” “Did you drive yourself?” I could only say that apart from the unexplainable grace of God I wouldn’t have. But it didn’t stop them from initially accusing me of “sleeping and not knowing it.” “No, I’m THIS wide awake ALL the time.” My husband had even noticed that I never yawned.
It turns out I had a very unusual medical problem that was caught five years into the struggle (which really isn’t necessary to explain for the purpose of this post). And it left me physically, mentally, and emotionally in a difficult place – frustrated, exhausted, and beyond.
Also during this time, there were people close to me going through difficulties like adultery, an ugly divorce and custody battle, cancer, and joblessness. And I felt like I had absolutely nothing to offer to support them.
The obvious thing about sleeplessness is that you have a LOT of time to think – and pray. (My doctor refused to give me sleeping pills in order to avoid physical or mental addiction – except for special situations.)
In my tens-of-thousands-of-hours trying to lay still in my bed (so I wouldn’t wake up my husband, John), I can guarantee there was nothing I hadn’t considered regarding my situation.
I had confessed every possible sin (and that was often prayed over me – “Lord, show Pam the sin that’s keeping her awake!”). And I imagined every possible reason God might have allowed (or even inflicted) me with this.
Then about four years into this struggle, John and I attended a 3-day conference along with several other people from the church where we worked. And what I experienced there set in motion a new journey of my heart, mind, and soul to better understand what the Bible teaches about worship.
I was surprised to find myself so intensely on this journey, because I thought I understood all there was to know about worship, since that was our ministry focus and I enjoyed it so much. But the physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that I had going into the conference changed dramatically while I was there. And I knew why.
You see, we experienced not only incredible, Spirit-led worship each day, but we worshiped for an hour or more, three-times a day, for each of those days. I really believe we worshiped for at least twelve hours in that short 3-day conference! And each of those hours found me closer to the throne of God as I grew in my ability to release my burdens, forget what was going on around me, and focus less on me and more completely on my amazing God. On Jesus.
The result was an incredible peace that flooded my heart and mind. If I never sleep again, it’s ok, because my God is big enough!
The change was so profound, I knew that I couldn’t ignore the powerful effect of gazing intently at my Lord and offering to Him all I could in worship.
I knew I would never be the same.
I left there thinking, Wow, what just happened? And what happened when people in the Bible worshiped? How can I become that kind of worshiper regularly?
I suddenly had such an incredible, inner drive to understand God’s plan for me as His worshiper, that I began my study immediately. I started with finding any story I could in scripture where people worshiped. And I must admit that even after being a Christian for over twenty years at that point, and after being in vocational music and worship ministry for close to that, I was still amazed at what I discovered.
Maybe my heart and mind were just finally sensitive enough to grasp a deeper understanding of something I had been taught before? Or maybe it was being in such a different place in life’s journey that showed me my need. Regardless, it’s changed my view of God, my relationship to God – my life!
My personal study of worship began to fill the pages of my journal (which I had neglected for some time). And I soon realized that I couldn’t keep all I was learning to myself. It was too important. Too life-changing. It was God’s purpose! So a book was born.. (And my pledge from my school days to never write another paper was soon abandoned! Ha!)
Now, am I saying that I had never worshiped or been a worshiper before? Not at all. I am saying that I didn’t regularly get to that place of truly intimate, transforming worship nearly often enough for a variety of reasons, and therefore, I was missing out on much of God‘s plan for me as His child. And I didn’t want to go back there.
Twenty minutes on Sunday morning just wasn’t going to do it anymore. I knew I needed to be seeking to intimately worship my God throughout the week.
As crazy as it sounds, I’m thankful for those sleepless years, because God put me in a place of needing Him desperately. And in a place of seeing Him and experiencing His power like I’d never known. And His love. Oh, His love!
Wherever you are in life – whatever that place looks like, I highly encourage you to find your place at the foot of His throne. Gaze intently at Him. Because you will find all you need in Him at that place where you pour out all you are in response to all He is in worship.
If you want to learn more about what the Bible teaches about worship – about what God’s purpose is for you as a worshiper, check out my books, "Worship and the Word" and "Seeking and Savoring". And subscribe to this blog so you can stay on this worship journey with me - we can encourage one another along the way!
Because He alone is worthy!
“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name
which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW,
of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
Thanks so much for reading!
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