There are a lot of tough lessons to learn out there, but one that the Lord has led me through this past year is the one of praising Him in the wilderness. We all know that it’s easy to love and worship Jesus when we feel good. It’s easy to believe that God is for us when life is going better than we expected, and that’s good! But what The Lord really wanted to impress in me this year was, what does my love for Him look like in the deepest and darkest parts of my heart when I’m in the midst of “nothing?”
I’m a huge feeler. I cry all the time. Happy tears, sad tears, angry tears… and if you tell me to stop crying, it just makes me cry more. I have a lot of feelings. I’m a Latina, and the stereotype is a stereotype for a reason, folks. There’s just a lot inside of me, which is nice because for the most part, I know how I feel and I know why I feel that way. But because I am so “in touch” with my feelings, I have found that the hardest place for me to be in is the middle of what seems to be nothing. My own personal wilderness, if you will. It’s not that I’m dependent on my feelings, I just really enjoy feeling feelings. I like to be happy, I like to be excited, I like to anticipate things, I like to be overwhelmed by the goodness of God, and I love love love to feel His presence. I like to feel.
This past April I led worship for Released Retreat and it was an awesome experience. I knew God was present, I saw the evidence of Him working powerfully in the lives of 500 women, I heard story after story of miracles that were happening, and I felt… nothing. Goodness, I hated that. I remember sitting and asking the Lord for something, anything, I just wanted to feel a little changed or inspired like everyone else. I wanted an encounter with The Lord that shifted my life for the better, and I got… nothing. Not because the Lord didn’t care about me or forgot me, but because He had something to reveal to me about Him and my heart toward Him—He had something to teach me about the obedience of worship, not just the music kind of worship, but the “posture of our heart” kind.
The last night of Released, we all got a card with a prophetic word inside of it that was distributed to us “randomly,” believing that each person would get the exact card they needed from The Lord. Yup. It was cool. I’ve never in my life gotten such an accurate word and the person who wrote it didn’t even know who it was going to. If that’s not evidence that The Lord speaks to us, I don’t know what is, but I digress… The card read,
Psalm 63:1 ‘You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.’
Daughter, I love you. I have not deserted you. All I need from you is your love in the midst of plentiful seasons and in dry seasons. As you wait on me, praise me. As you seek me, love me. All else will fade. It’ll just be you and me.
‘The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17’”
I’ll bet you couldn’t guess what I did next, but I wept. Like just lost my mind. The Lord literally handed me a manual for what to do when I am in my own personal wilderness and I couldn’t believe how easy the answer was. Love. Isn’t it cool how simple Jesus is? He doesn’t make us jump through these huge hoops to be with Him, He just says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). And He’s not kidding. If I’m not feeling anything, all I need to do is love Him. All I need to do is praise Him and lift His name high, believe that He’s present with me, believe in His power and authority, and give him everything I’ve got—not so I can experience the adrenaline high that comes with feeling the presence of God, but because He is worthy of my love and adoration, and I want to give that to Him.
What I had missed was, I was looking for the benefits/feelings that come when Jesus is around instead of just wanting to be around Jesus, and that’s pretty scary to me. I don’t want to seek the blessings of The Kingdom of God before I seek the King. And really in all honestly, I’m not totally convinced that it’s possible to be stuck in the wilderness too long if we’re asking Jesus how we can love Him better, or if we’re focusing on the wonder of who He is instead of what He can do for us or how good He makes us feel. Yes, I desire to feel Jesus’ presence everyday, but not because it’s nice or makes me feel good, but because I love Him and I want to be with Him.
Praise will be my song. It will be my response when I’ve got nothing and it’ll be my response when I’ve got everything! But especially when I feel nothing, when I’m tired, when I’m empty, and I can barely muster up a whisper of praise, I’m gonna love Him. I’m going to do it all in obedience because I know with all of my heart that He’s here (He promises to be), I know He’s worthy, I know He’s eager to spend time with me, and because this whole living life with Jesus thing is about living life WITH Him, and just really not about my feelings.