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5 Big Problems that Can Get in the Way of Your Worship

  • Jen Ferguson
5 Big Problems that Can Get in the Way of Your Worship

Worship happens in multiple ways. It’s not simply singing songs at church on Sunday, though I wouldn’t trade that time on a regular basis for anything. There is something special about worshipping corporately, as God calls us to live and grow in community. But the definition of worship is bigger than “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.” Tony Evans describes worship as an orientation, a way of life, one not solely defined by an event or place. I find some of my best times of worship are when I’m running on a cool day, when I’m in my garden, and when I’m sitting at my kitchen table with my journal and Bible. But just as there are a myriad of ways I can worship God, there are also a multitude of things that can get in the way of my worship of Him.

Here are 5 things that get in the way of worship:

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1. Entitlement that Breeds Bitterness

1. Entitlement that Breeds Bitterness

True confession: I have told God before that I didn’t feel like worshiping Him. Have you said the same thing? Even if you didn’t use words, you probably remember how your heart felt in those moments—the proverbial hand in God’s face.

Why would we not feel like worshipping? For me, often it’s because I didn’t get my way and I felt like He let me down. Disappointment with God because of my preconceived (and often, wrong) ideas of what was best for me created a wall between us. Where worship could have broken it down, I chose to sit behind it in my temper tantrum. When things don’t unfold as I think they should, I can easily lapse into a mindset that feeds my sense of entitlement.

“Don’t I deserve…?”

“Haven’t I worked hard enough to…?”

“If you really loved me, You would…”

“You’re a big God. What can’t you just…for me?”

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Jesus Tells Us to Love the Lord

Jesus Tells Us to Love the Lord

Yes, our pain and our disappointments are real and valid. It is acceptable to have feelings of anger at God when hard things of life happen. But if we withhold our worship, we are saying:

  • We know better than God.
  • God has to earn our favor.
  • We can manipulate Him into giving us what we want.
  • Our love for Him is conditional.

This last one that turns my stomach the most because I know it is the exact opposite of how He loves me. Whether I choose to worship or not is irrelevant when it comes to how He loves—unconditionally and without fail. There is nothing I can do or say that will make Him love me less…or more. And if I really think about it—especially after I’ve had time to process (and grieve) what I have lost, do I truly want to worship a God that does my bidding? Have I not done enough foolish things in the past to show that I am not always wise and prudent?

But at the end of the day, it all boils down to this: Jesus tells us to love the Lord with all our hearts, souls and minds. It is the greatest commandment, one with no asterisk or addendum or “if” clause. A key part of the element of worship is giving something to Someone who is more than you will ever be. If we start commanding our God to follow us, what is the point of worship?

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2. Shame

2. Shame

Shame and I go way back. Shame has kept me from approaching God as my true self more times than I can count. Sure, on the outside, it may look like I have engaged with Him. I sang songs. I prayed. I lifted my hands. I dug deep into Scripture. But on the inside, I was cringing.

What is God really thinking?

I don’t deserve to be in His presence.

What will He say to me if I really show up and listen?

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God Wants to Draw Us into Relationship

God Wants to Draw Us into Relationship

It has taken me what seems like a gazillion years to realize that God’s love is unconditional. He understands that I will never be perfect and that part of my coming into His presence will require some sort of confession and need for repentance. God made it so easy to ask for forgiveness because He has promised that He will always grant it. When we allow our shame to stand in between us and God, we negate the power and sacrifice of the cross. We let Satan win. Paul tells us there is never any condemnation for those of us who have a relationship with Christ Jesus. Will the Holy Spirit convict us? Yes. We need to know when we’ve done wrong so that we will engage in the repair of relationship. But this sense of conviction never comes with a sense of shame because God wants to draw us into relationship with Him, not cast us out.

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3. Fear/Worry

3. Fear/Worry

I have been in a season where God is seriously talking to me about my propensity to fear. When I am afraid, I am often driven to my knees. I go on and on about the situation, the circumstances, and how I worry it will play out. I sound like a beggar instead of a beloved daughter. I am not compelled into His presence by my faith that He wants the best for me. Instead, I am compelled by my fear that He might somehow fail me. And this means I have put myself on the throne instead of God. Who am I really worshiping? My own self. My own abilities.

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When We Worship, We See God More Clearly

When We Worship, We See God More Clearly

Our wringing hands to do not communicate a steady trust in a God who is sovereign and loving. Our worshipping hearts do. When we worship, we communicate that though we do not see the entire picture, we serve a God who does. We communicate that though we may not feel particularly loved at the moment because of the state of our affairs, we still are. It is easy to let our problems distort the image of God, but when we worship, we see God much more clearly.

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4. Busyness/Priorities

4. Busyness/Priorities

It takes time to worship. We live in a society where time is viewed as a scarcity. There is simply never enough, we think. I also know the struggle truly is real. There truly is enough to do where I could fill every second of every day with tasks. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we can survive on a little less sleep, with a little less downtime, with a little less social interaction. But the truth is this: it always catches up with us. We become irritable, resentful, overworked, and bone-dry. The same happens when we live under the delusion that we don’t really need to spend quality time with God. This isn’t about having a requisite “quiet time.” This is about engaging in a God who wants to spend time with us, to talk to us, and to listen to our biggest problems and our mundane thoughts. All relationships require time and energy. If you didn’t spend time with your closest friends, your spouse, or your kids, your relationship would wither. The same is true of your relationship with God.

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He Is the Father of Time

He Is the Father of Time

The next time you think you don’t have time to engage in worship and conversation with God, remember this: He is the Father of time. He created it. He knows how it works. He knows exactly how much time you need to complete the things He has called you to do. To worship even when you don’t feel like you have time, means you trust Him to hold time in His hands—your time, your activities, your life.

Special note: As someone who works in a church, it can be especially easy for those of us who are deeply involved in ministry to prioritize people who need us over our own need for God. As Christians, we can fall prey to evaluating our Christianity by how many times we attend church or how often we volunteer in ministry. But hear me clearly:  God always desires YOU first. Your service is no substitute for worship. He only called you to participate in service to Him through His strength, not yours. To neglect that time of refilling with Him means your pouring out of your own capacity and not Jesus’.

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5. Environment

5. Environment

I love the feel of sacred space—of cozy chairs, scented candles, dimmed lighting, and, of course, a clean house. When I’m at church, I love the loud beat of the drums and the harmony of voices. When my pastor is preaching, I love getting introspective and applying the sermon to my life. But what happens when I can’t seem to create the environment I most desire when I’m sitting in worship? What if my life is in chaos, my house a wreck, the music is terrible, and the sermon is irrelevant? What, then?

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Worship Isn't Contingent on Our Environment

Worship Isn't Contingent on Our Environment

Worship isn’t contingent on our external environment. Many times we have very little control over that (hello, children who make messes). Instead, worship is contingent only on the choice we make with our hearts. If we wait for a perfect environment in which to worship, our hearts will wait to be perfected. The Author and Perfecter of our faith is critical to our spiritual growth and development and He is accessible at all times—when we (or our house or church) are in any condition.

Today is the day to worship. Let us truly cast off anything that hinders us from coming before Him in reverence and with love.


Jen Ferguson is a wife, author, and speaker who is passionate about helping couples thrive in their marriages. She and her husband, Craig, have shared their own hard story in their book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography and are also creators of the Marriage Matters Prayer Cards. They continue to help couples along in their journeys to freedom and intimacy at The {K}not Project. Jen is also a mama to two girls and two high-maintenance dogs, which is probably why she runs. A lot. Even in the Texas heat.

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