When we proclaim or sing out loud, “Christ is worthy of our praise!” on Sunday mornings, the words uplift our souls and reclaim our devotion to a living and active God. But what flows from our tongue sometimes does not necessarily reflect what flows from our thoughts when we are in the midst of our praise. All of us tend to suffer from a disease that infiltrates our hearts and minds. The fruit of its effects is found during those times of worship. It’s called distraction.
A distracted heart can be traced back to its roots when our worship of God is replaced by the worship of self. And it can take several different forms.
A distracted heart will sometimes dwell on the lack of appreciation or thankfulness that ought to be directed toward us. If there is anybody worthy of praise and attention, it ought to be us! This is how our sinful nature positions itself to redirect genuine thoughts of praise. And if left unchecked, we place ourselves as being more worthy of our praise and attention.
Another common form of self-worship that causes distraction is worry and anxiety. Ongoing concerns fogs our spirit. And a cluttered soul finds little room for praise because it invites forgetfulness. On a clear day, we can see the hand of God and all the times he has brilliantly led, direct and provided for us. But worry invites a foggy soul that infiltrates our trust and praise.
If you are one that struggles with distracted worship, then you belong with me. It’s frustrating to conclude a Sunday morning at church with another distracted hour of worship. My only hope, my only prayer is that somehow my mind and spirit could be like a spider’s web. My prayer is that a thought from the message or a verse from a song was captured by the stickiness of a well-crafted web and be devoured throughout the week to nourish my soul. During those times when I’m startled awake from the fog of distraction, I have learned that it’s okay to be contrite. Confession becomes a regular occurrence during the course of worship. It’s not just a confession of my sins, but confession of the moment when my mind goes outside the walls of a sanctuary and into a world where doubt lingers and worries reign.
It was helpful for me this past Sunday morning to read the first chapter of Thessalonians. The Apostle Paul, prompted and inspired by the Holy Spirit, has a way of redirecting our thoughts away from the worship of self and on to a living Savior. “Christ died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.” (5:10) Despite my struggles, Christ died for me. If my mind falls asleep during those times of praise, the Holy Spirit can tap me on the shoulder and point to the cross. Then I’m reminded that I’m forgiven, my salvation is secure, and I can rest in that truth. A confident soul dwells in Christ — He, (not myself) is worthy of our praise.