Friends! I am so excited to kick off this series with my friend Sarah Ann Schultz!! I met Sarah Ann when I went to Rwanda with HOPE International (check out my post on Rwanda to learn about all the awesome work they are doing!). Sarah Ann recently transitioned from her role at HOPE to a local non-profit in Charlotte, NC called Sustain Charlotte.  In addition to serving as their Marketing and Events Coordinator, she is actively involved in her church community, Warehouse 242, and YoungLives, a division of Young Life that serves teen moms. You can read more of her writing at https://www.sarahann-schultz.com, and I am so thrilled for you to meet her! 

Welcome Sarah Ann!

Worship in the Dark Places 

 By Sarah Ann Schultz 

I found out some disappointing news recently, and my reaction was, shall we say, less than graceful. It was somewhere between James Vanderbeek in Dawson’s Creek and Belle in Beauty and the Beast

To be clear, no one in my immediate family has died. I did not get a sobering diagnosis, nor did a beast condemn me to eternal imprisonment in a magical castle. 

A very ordinary and unlikely decision brought me to a very low place. I spent a week on a diet of pad thai and red wine, spending a lot of time looking out windows, listening to Bon Iver, and wishing it were raining. I even took a day off of work to properly mourn my dashed hopes and dreams. (Did I mention I’m an Enneagram Four?) 

During this mourning period, the Lord led me to the story of Job. 

If you’ve spent much time in church circles, you know the story—how in the span of just a few minutes, a very righteous man named Job lost his entire livelihood, family, and home.  I’ve heard this story a thousand times, but this time, I noticed something new in Job’s reaction to this series of catastrophes.

“At this Job, got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:20-21)

He ripped off his clothes, shaved his head, and… worshipped. 

Huh? One of these things is not like the other.

In my current state of disappointment, worship felt farther away than Jupiter. I had been fighting a state of despair. At this moment, worship didn’t even feel possible. And yet, Job suffered far greater losses than I likely ever would, and still, worship was his response. 

Oftentimes, I associate worshipping God with the good stuff—praising Him for His goodness, all that He’s given us, etc. And while gratitude is a beautiful and holy thing, letting worship live only in the sunshine leaves us unsure of how to approach God in the darkness. 

I’ve spent a lot of my relationship with God feeling wounded, when He hasn’t responded to my fervent prayers. In my head, I’ve understood that God does not promise an easy life—in fact, He promises hardship. In John 16:33, Jesus tells his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

But even though I’ve known this on a cognitive level,  I’ve often felt hurt on a deeply personal level when God has let me fall. If He is able and He loves me, why would He choose not to intervene? How can I continue to ask of Him, knowing that what will be will be?  I think these questions are valuable, but I’ve been stuck in them. I’ve felt paralyzed in not knowing to trust God if His involvement doesn’t ultimately prevent or protect me from pain. 

In a year of a lot of change and transition for me, the Lord has continued to whisper a single word to me: Surrender. I find myself getting internally wound up over all of the ways I want God to intervene in my life and in those around me. And as I find myself getting tangled up in questions again and again, that same word quietly comes: surrender. 

Job’s response says, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” Having the same response as Job does not come natural to me, or perhaps any of us. It is a posture cultivated over years of open-handed surrender.  Recently, I met a woman at a funeral for her grandson recently who said to me, “Our lives are training grounds for moments like these.” I imagine that Job’s posture began long before this moment and carried him into an unfathomably difficult season. 

Worship in the dark places is saying, “God, what a gift it is to know that You are at work in this darkness in a way I cannot see at this moment in time. Because of You, I know that this pain is not for nothing.

May we truly take heart in knowing that He has overcome the world. 

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