When It Hurts Too Much to Sing

November 10, 2011 | 20 comments

Sometimes, you think you’ll never sing again.

You look around you, at the 12-foot- tall waves of doubt, guilt or sorrow. God said He had plans to prosper you, to give you a future, but here on this sinking ship, you’re pretty sure life is going to crush you any minute. 

You hang your head in your hands, and you picture how it ends, with you falling to the bottom, like a rock into the dark. It’s just a matter of time, only a matter of time. And what fool would dream of singing at a time like this?

The waves pound,
you think you’ll drown,
you’re losing ground …
but right about then,
you risk it: a sound. 

You sing:

When the darkness closes in Lord, still I will say …
Blessed by the name.

You take a risk, and you do the most absurd thing: You worship. Right there on the road marked with suffering, you lift up your head. With chin raised, and eyes ahead, you see Light. You sing–do you hear it now?–you sing right in the throes of sorrow.


The church does a good job of pretending that life is fine. Most of the songs we sing are happy ones. But the truth is this: Most of the songs in the Bible are written from a place that looks a lot like that boat of despair you’re sitting in. Take a look at the Psalms, if you’re curious.

I’m relearning this: full-bodied worship isn’t always about the happy song. Honest worship isn’t glossed-over with the pasted-on happy. Real worship is singing with our all, to the All in All.

It is singing out our praise, and even our pain;
it is singing with hope, and even with hang-ups;
it is singing our celebration, and even our sadness.

That is full, real, complete worship–when we give him every broken inch, not just our happy parts. And when we worship, maybe we could look out past the boat, onto the crashing waves in front of us.

I think I see Him there, just now, walking toward us. And it makes me feel like singing.   


Today, I’m headed to that three-day retreat I told you about. I’ll be leading worship for some spectacular ladies. In any room where we worship–a retreat, a church service, a Bible study–a whole lot of people are walking that road marked with suffering.

Pray for us? That we would worship from our fullest, truest places?

by | November 10, 2011 | 20 comments


  1. Traci

    Wonderful post! Praying for you now… true worship is the best… anything else is self-worship.

    Loved it.

    Traci @ Ordinary Inspirations

  2. Karen

    Blessed be His glor-or-i-ous Name! Amen! It’s amazing what a sound will do…

    Prayers for your retreat….

  3. Doug Spurling

    I will praise you in this storm by Casting Crowns:I was sure by now
    God You would have reached down
    And wiped our tears away
    Stepped in and saved the day
    But once again, I say “Amen”, and it’s still raining

    As the thunder rolls
    I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
    “I’m with you”
    And as Your mercy falls
    I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
    And takes away

    And I’ll praise You in this storm
    And I will lift my hands
    For You are who You are
    No matter where I am
    And every tear I’ve cried
    You hold in Your hand
    You never left my side
    And though my heart is torn
    I will praise You in this storm

    I remember when
    I stumbled in the wind
    You heard my cry to you
    And you raised me up again
    My strength is almost gone
    How can I carry on
    If I can’t find You

    But as the thunder rolls
    I barely hear You whisper through the rain
    “I’m with you”
    And as Your mercy falls
    I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
    And takes away


    I lift my eyes unto the hills
    Where does my help come from?
    My help comes from the Lord
    The Maker of Heaven and Earth

    • Crystal

      I must find this CD – thanks for sharing!

  4. Sheila

    Honored to pray for you and your fellow (sororal?) retreaters….

    You know, on those Sundays when I don’t feel like I can drag myself out the door to go to church–that’s when I most need to be there. And I always feel the peace after I hand my crud over to Him. Again.

    • Crystal

      That’s exactly what my husband and I say when we don’t feel like going to Bible study – that’s when we most need to go! And it always ends up being a very good evening!

  5. Linda Thomas

    Your post is full of faith and hope. I remember days of utter despair, what I call my own personal 9/11, and I struggled to worship; I always prayed, but worship was hard to come by.

    Next time I face a struggle, I hope and pray I’ll remember what you said, “you do the most absurd thing: You worship. Right there on the road marked with suffering, you lift up your head. With chin raised, and eyes ahead, you see Light. You sing–do you hear it now?–you sing right in the throes of sorrow.”

    You wrote so many other poignant gems. They are worth jotting down and re-reading. Thank you for your rich blessing!


  6. Ruthiey

    Praying right now. Sounds like it will be beautiful. <3

  7. Glynn

    I sometimes think that the best songs don’t come from our voice but rather from our souls. Certainly the ones that matter do.

  8. Nancy

    Sometimes life hurts so much all I can do is sing, and then in a minor key. Retreat well, friend.

  9. Jennifer@Adam's Rib

    Those songs in our hurt somehow have the habit of getting our focus back where it needs to be…even if for only a little while until we need to go before His throne again.

  10. Sandra Heska King

    I love that you chose to focus on one of my favorite songs. One of the songs I’ve wept through so many times.

    I wish I was going on retreat with you.

  11. Diana Trautwein

    Prayers abound from all sides for your weekend of worship and community. This is lovely writing about such deep truth – all of it. The need for lament and the church’s sometimes sad unwillingness to allow that cleansing, purifying cry to be heard in our community times together. Blessed be the Lord, indeed. And amen.

  12. Patricia

    For me, this is how I sometimes understand the phrase “a sacrifice of praise” … worshipping him because of who He is … “whatever befall…
    privileged to pray for you =)

  13. Dea

    Yes! So beautiful and true. “Sings” so true in my life. God bless the retreat with His Presence and Power!

  14. Lynn Mosher

    Amen, Jennifer! Worship comes from deep within a heart of love, the place where circumstances cannot touch. As Patricia said, it’s that sacrifice of praise. And the enemy hates it! Beautiful post!

  15. Nancy Kourmoulis

    Praying – may the Lord’s presence be in the midst of your worship this weekend and always.

  16. Connie@raise your eyes

    Those are the songs that touch the deepest pits of pain…the fires where my worship is purified…and I know evil slithers away.

  17. Crystal

    I’m carrying your words in my heart – they are exactly what I needed to hear. And they will be remembered in tomorrow’s worship in church too. I hope the retreat was filled with His presence and peace!

  18. Beth E.

    Beautiful, sweet friend…thank you so much for your encouraging post. Even in the midst of the storm, God is right there with us…I’m praising Him through it all.

    (Please check out my most recent blog post for a wonderful praise report!)


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