Worship is a great habit when life seems chaotic. I still remember the first weekend of the 2020 pandemic. After a Men’s Breakfast at church, my wife asked me to stop by the grocery store for a few things. I texted from the parking lot that I had arrived and should be home pretty soon. She told me thanks and then asked, “Is it apocalyptic there?” I texted back, “No more crowded than Superbowl or Thanksgiving, but people do look kind of scared, so I’m whistling and smiling at everyone in the name of Jesus.” I was also using the provided wipes to sanitize my cart and hands and maintaining a social distance from other shoppers.

This is always the kind of tension we live in as Christians. We can take natural precautions in life, like washing and distancing during a bizarre pandemic. But we also share a supernatural hope that God is saving us even in the chaos. This hope leads us to praise God on good days and bad days. The Hebrew word for the book of Psalms in the Bible means “praises.” The most common style of praise in the book of Psalms is a lament. Like a child who skins his knee and runs to his parents in tears, it is a form of praise to trust God with our tears. Psalm 40 brings such tension together beautifully. It challenges us to worship in the chaos. The band, U2, recorded this Psalm in the 1980s, and that song still runs through my head in times of need.

The first thing that Psalm 40 teaches us about worshipping God through chaos is that worship tells others about God. God rescues us physically but also spiritually. David may have been stuck in a real pit inspiring this text. But he is also a biblical prophet and his images of physical destruction point us to our need for an ultimate and eternal rescue. As we worry about physical pandemics, we must take basic precautions and pray for God’s help. When we recognize our need for God’s salvation, and ask him for it, he rescues. We see how he rescues in the story of the cross: Jesus takes our sin and gives us his perfect resurrection life. This puts a “new song” in our mouths (Psalm 40:3). Does the cross cause you to “tell of his wondrous deeds”? If so, many will see and put their trust in God (v.3). Telling of Jesus is “more than can be told” (v.5). Tim Keller says “The best way to get better at telling others about Jesus is to do it badly.” Try telling imperfectly, and the Holy Spirit will help you improve. Serve people in the pandemic, but also tell them of your hope.

Psalm 40 also teaches us that worship in the chaos reorganizes our life. Verses 6-10 connect heart obedience and congregational identity as the twin organization schemes for our lives as believers. Hebrews 10 shows how this is fulfilled in Jesus. We need a community of faith to persevere in worship. The pandemic taught us how important community is. Anxiety skyrocketed as people were living in extreme isolation. Focus on God’s goodness rebuilds our hearts, and enables us to love others in community.

Finally, remember that worship works in the worst of times (v.11-17).  People of faith often feel a heightened experience of supernatural joy when all our earthly securities are shaken. Can you think of times you were most sure of God’s goodness to you? Do you feel the freedom to bring all of your worries and fears to God in prayer and worship? Other saviors require us to serve them first, then we’ll be blessed. Our story is that God blessed us first (1 John 4:19), so now we can bring all of our weakness and fears to him.

A Biblical counselor James Noriega said, “We worshipped our way into this mess, and by God’s grace, we’ll worship our way out.” When our earthly security is faltering, it is not the time to double down on worshipping false saviors. It is the time to more honestly worship the one true Savior in the midst of the chaos. Don’t wait until you have life figured out. Worship in the chaos so many will see and trust the Lord. Let’s follow the Apostle Paul’s example in 2nd Corinthians 4:5-12, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake… But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”

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Dave McMurry

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