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Praising through the pain

Songwriter and worship leader Sarah Téibo shares candidly how hard it can be to worship in the most excruciating moments of life – and yet encourages us all to do so.

I’ve been leading worship for some decades now, and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that not everyone comes into church all pumped up and rearing to go. I scan the room and see people with varying levels of enthusiasm. While some may be at a place where everything is going swimmingly and they have come with their garments of praise, others may have just received the worst news in their lives and may be struggling with emotional or physical pain, disappointment, or the loss of a loved one. They may even be feeling let down by God, so the very thought of praising him is not one they are willing to entertain. They are amongst many, yet feel painfully alone.

In the midst of grief

Life throws us all curveballs. We will all at some point in our lives hit a very rough patch. At such times, worshipping becomes an uphill task, if not altogether impossible. Some years ago, when my husband and I were trying for our second child, I suffered miscarriages in the early stages of two consecutive pregnancies. Those were the darkest days of my life. I questioned God directly, asking: “Why would you give me a blessing and take it away? Twice. Why did my prayers of faith not work?" What’s more, during both miscarriages, I was called upon to lead worship – obviously, no one knew what I was going through. So ,on both occasions, while the essence of life was leaving me, I was on stage with hands raised high in worship, people being blessed, but with my spirit grieving and my heart aching.

During my second miscarriage, I remember coming off stage and going straight to a back room after leading the worship session. I broke down in tears. I was inconsolable. All I could do was ask God “Why?", because I just couldn’t bring myself to worship. When I got home, I was holed up in my room and, even though I couldn’t pray, I had a song playing on repeat. It simply declared ‘Trust in the Lord and he will make a way’.

Through my pain, I realised that God not only knew how I felt, but he also wanted to comfort me. He understood my pain and he welcomed me into his presence, tears and all. There he taught me a lesson about faith that will stay with me forever. He told me my faith in him was not to be some sort of ‘remote control’ with which I get him to do my bidding, but rather an unshaken resolve to trust him despite what life brings. Through my pain, he was teaching me.

Showing up, and being honest

When we go through those inevitable dark days, we might not feel like it, but still we need to show up in the presence of God. In his presence we will find healing for our pain, so instead of running from him, we should run to him. We should be like David who went before the Lord in his hour of despair: "I cry aloud to the Lord... I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way.” (Psalm 142:1-3).

We have a Father who doesn’t want us to pretend like everything is fine if it isn’t. He empathises with our weaknesses and wants us to approach his “throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16).

Our love for God should not be based on our condition, because this changes from one day to the next. It should be based on who he is, because he never changes.

Sarah Téibo is an author, worship leader and recording artist. Her debut album Walk with Me which earned her a MOBO nomination and multiple awards including the prestigious Premier Gospel Awards’ ‘Album of the Year’. Her sophomore album Keep Walking also saw her top the Official Charts, making her the first female independent gospel artist to do so. Find out more about her here.

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