Worship is the act of exalting God the Father and expressing all of one’s adoration for Him. Until my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I thought worship was expressed exclusively through singing. Then I learned worship could also look like laying prostrate and weeping before the Father.
When I was in middle school, I had never faced tragedy before, so following Jesus was the sweetest experience for me. After I officially gave my life to Christ in the sixth grade at church camp, I experienced Jesus in a whole new way. The Bible became so much more relevant to me. Prayer became easier. I started to pray, not because I was supposed to, but because I wanted and needed to. Worship became so much more important to me. I could now express my love for Jesus in a public and private setting!
I grew up with Christian parents who loved me unconditionally, and this made following my loving Heavenly Father and His precious Son easy. We would pray together as a family. I was physically and emotionally cared for. Viewing God as a loving Father came naturally to me because I had such a great example in my earthly dad.
Then, when I was in seventh grade, my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer.
Once she started chemotherapy, I would come home to her lying lifeless on the couch. She had been there for days and there was no blood in her face. She wasn’t herself at all. I would come home from school, just plop down beside her, and cry. I would cry for hours, skipping dinner and my homework. My heart turned to deep anger towards God.
One particular night I came home from school, and devastation laid on the dark red couch before me in my living room. I proceeded to live out my usual routine of crying next to her on the couch. After several hours went by, I had skipped both dinner and my homework. I heard her whisper, “Paige, you need to go to bed, honey. I love you.” I fought her for a while but she finally won.
I cried hard and kissed her goodnight. As I ascended the stairs to my room my anger reached its peak.
Prior to my mom’s diagnosis, my personal theology was: “You do good for God and God will do good for you. He doesn’t let bad things happen to good people–especially His children.” Now I wondered: How could God let this happen? I did everything right. I followed all the rules. Plus, we were good people! We didn’t deserve this!
When I reached my bedroom I fell down on my floor and began to pound the ground out of intense anger. After several minutes of that, I felt an overwhelming rush of peace flow through my whole body. Then I heard a still, small voice say:
“Paige, I’ve got this. I love you.”
Circumstances declined from there, but my relationship with Christ grew richer every day. My heart began to burn for more intimacy with God. I grew to have a deep love and appreciation for worship. I started waking up every morning to spend time with God. Communication between God and me was never-ending. I finally felt like I could hear His voice. I was just starting to learn how to discern it among all the other voices in my life.
In 2014, my mom passed away after a long, hard fight with cancer. But she met Jesus and so the victor was not cancer, but Jesus.
Ever since this life-defining experience, I find God refining me like David suggests in Psalm 66:10: “For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver.” Refinement takes a lot of pressure and time. Many of the circumstances I have endured, including my mother’s diagnosis and passing, have included intense pressure and occurred over a long period of time. Through this, I believe God is forming me spiritually to look more like Christ. Scripture also talks about how we must share in Christ’s suffering. (1 Peter 5:1) Every time I experience suffering, I am stripped of something else, something hindering me from deeper intimacy with God himself.
One thing I really struggle with is thinking I am unique in the suffering I have experienced. Sometimes my sin can look like isolating myself to become the sole victim. God is working on this part of my heart right now, by teaching me that He has so graciously set up the body of Christ to be a body– not just one person. We all have a different role to play.
And yes, I am unique but I am not the only one who has ever experienced suffering to this degree. Christ himself suffered so I can experience full life in Him. I am learning what it looks like to share my own suffering, as well as others’ suffering, within the context of community.
It is because of God’s grace I am being formed into the likeness of His Son. What an honor and privilege it is to be found in Him. Some days I don’t always see it as such. In fact, most days I feel very pouty and remind God one tragedy should be enough. But our lives don’t have tragedy quotas that scream to be met. God’s plan for each of us is unique and special. My journey to Christ-likeness should look completely different from yours. That’s what makes our God so beautiful. He walks with us on the journeys He has set before us.
My perception of worship has broadened through this experience. Worship is not just singing corporately on a Sunday morning. It comes in forms that are too many to count. Maybe it’s weeping before the Father because there are no words to describe the pain. Maybe it’s dancing because there are no words to describe the joy. Maybe it’s painting because there are no words to describe the awe. Worship does not require words; it only requires the whole heart participating in wonder and adoration of the Almighty God.