Do you struggle to draw close to God in worship? Does God feel distant or do you feel like you’re just going through the motions?
Stop. Take a minute to be thankful that you desire to grow in your faith. That is good news. Only the Spirit of God can create that desire in your heart.
In this article, we’ll explore some potential obstacles to your daily walk with God and provide a gospel remedy to each one. I’ll also suggest some worship songs to add to your playlist to fuel your daily meditation on the gospel.
Why Draw Close to God in Worship?
Scripture frequently calls us to draw close to God. Jesus tells us to come to him if we are weary (Matt. 11:28). The prophet Isaiah says, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he, who has no money, come, buy and eat!” (Is. 55:1) James encourages us: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)
Perhaps my favorite passage in this respect is Hebrews 10:19-22:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
The invitation and call to draw close to God in worship is clear. The problem is we find many reasons to hold back.
Why I Don’t Draw Close To God in Worship: 5 Obstacles to Overcome
The dream was so vivid I thought it really happened.
I stood in the back of an enormous room filled with people in every direction I could see. The crowd worshiped God passionately in song and dance. I’d never seen such joyous celebration. It seemed as if God was really in the room.
Then I realized God really was there. He was seated on his throne looking straight at me.
I wanted to run away and hide. Anything to escape his eyes. But I knew it was futile–since there is no escaping God–so I looked back into his eyes.
With eyes filled with compassion, he looked at me and said, “Come closer, Phil. Stop hiding in the shadows. I want to set you free. I want to know you.”
I felt undone. He was right. I had been hiding, even though I worked in vocational ministry, I felt ashamed by my sin and didn’t really want to get too close.
Whether this was a dream or vision, it has served as a regular reminder to draw close to God in worship and to check my heart for the reasons for why I don’t want to draw near.
Here are 5 reasons why we don’t draw close to God in worship along with some worship songs to help us remember the gospel.
Obstacle #1: Fear of Being Undone
As I discovered through the above dream, we all feel reluctant to get too close to God for fear of what will happen to us. We may lose control and that is scary.
Good News: The prophet Isaiah was completely undone when he entered God’s holy presence in Isaiah 6. This led to repentance and cleansing. Those are the very things we truly long for. We want God to wipe away our sins and to release us from the burdens of guilt and shame we often carry around in our hearts. That’s the very thing he also longs to do.
Worship Song #1: This song from Sovereign Grace Music is based on Isaac Watts’ hymn The Look and provides a great reminder of how God looks at us.
Obstacle #2: The Deception of Sin
When I was seven years old I stole some money from a neighbor. When I lost a tooth that night, I placed the money under my pillow and declared the next day that the “tooth fairy” had brought me $7. My parents weren’t fooled and I had to return the money and face my shame.
God is not fooled by our sin. We often disguise our sin as something that looks right. Gossip is calling sharing and concern. Lust can be disguised as admiration. Greed masquerades as ambition and desire.
When we cling to sin we don’t want to draw close to God because we fear he will expose our lies and we’ll have to give it up.
Good News: God promises freedom from bondage and abundant life to those who repent of their sin (Luke 4:18). Sin is an awful master who only knows the path to destruction, but God sets us free from slavery to sin so we might be slaves to righteousness, which isn’t really slavery at all (Romans 6:18).
Worship Song #2: Break Every Chain from Jesus Culture is an excellent reminder that Jesus is the only one who can break the power of sin in our lives.
Obstacle #3: Feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness
When we look upon God’s holiness and righteousness we rightly feel inadequate and imperfect. But if we have accepted God’s grace toward us we have become a new person. God sees us as righteous because of Jesus’ perfect record.
Unfortunately, we all find ourselves consumed with feelings of shame, inadequacy and unworthiness that prevent us from pursuing God. We tend to cling to our old deeds and remember our sin. This leads to hiding and running from God.
The psalmist in Psalm 139 discovered there is no place we can run from God’s Spirit. That doesn’t mean we don’t try. Remember the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). When he came to the end of himself he humbly returned to his father where he found complete forgiveness and restoration.
Good News: Jesus saves us not because of any righteous thing we’ve ever done, but because of his mercy (Titus 3:5). As our high priest, Jesus has paved the way for us to enter the holy of holies. God made you in his image before the dawn of time and he loves the way he made you and wants to restore you and make you shine brighter than the angels and stars in heaven. You must draw close to God to receive his mercy and grace.
Worship Song #3: Indelible Grace Music has a modern version of the hymn Jesus I Come reminding us we can come to Jesus in spite of our sin and circumstances.
Obstacle #4: Fear of what others will think
As a worship pastor, I’ve seen this scenario play out many times. A man stands with the congregation during singing and starts to look around. As he sees his neighbors freely raising their hands, clapping or dancing, he becomes freer in his own expression of worship. But he often has an eye on his immediate neighbors. He doesn’t want to stand out as being too radical or too extreme. He may stick his hands in his pocket to look cool or nonchalant.
If the president or your company or country pointed you out in a crowd and invited you to come sit with him during a dinner, would you refuse? Would you worry about what your friends thought?
Unfortunately, I think we get nervous. I remember having a meeting scheduled with Charles Koch while I worked at Koch Industries. I spent months preparing for the meeting, but once the meeting arrived I stayed quiet for fear of looking foolish in front of my peers. I missed out on a great opportunity.
We often do the same thing in worship. It requires us to take a risk with God. C.S. Lewis said this about Aslan (a metaphor for God): “Is he safe? No. But he is good.”
In our hearts, we know the most important thing is what God thinks of us. Only his opinion matters, but we are easily swayed by human opinion.
Good News: God invites us to come to him as little children (Mt. 19:14). That means we don’t need to bring perfect offerings. God wants us to come as we are. We don’t have to wait until we can sing perfectly, dance proficiently or live righteously. God has already accepted the perfect gift from Jesus and now he wants us. No pretending required.
Worship Song #4: Matt Maher’s song Lord, I Need You is a great reminder that “when sin runs deep your grace is more.”
Obstacle #5: Fear of rejection
During college, I experienced rejection at least one hundred times as I called various women for dates. At least it felt like that many. After a while, I assumed they would say no and probably made it easy for them. I numbed my heart so that it wouldn’t hurt too much.
A few years later I actually said this to a lady I was dating, “I’m afraid that once you get to know the real me you’re not going to like me anymore. I fear you only like me for who you think I am.” Needless to say, that put a quick end to that relationship.
I’ve done that with God on a greater level and I suspect you can relate.
I fear that God will see something in me that will cause him to change his mind about me. It’s ridiculous because I’m being very presumptuous to think I’m the first person in the history of the human race who can surprise God so much that he would change his mind.
Good News: God is love. Period. When he says something he does it. No one can change his mind.
Did God become disgusted by ancient Israel when they whored themselves after foreign gods? Yes. Israel consistently broke God’s commands and he turned them over to foreign countries to be punished, but he never abandoned his covenant promise.
God is still disgusted by my sin, but the difference is that Jesus now stands as my advocate and “reminds” the Father that my punishment has already been fulfilled. I’m already forgiven for every sin I ever will commit. That doesn’t give me license to sin freely (Rom. 6:15), but it does grant me assurance that the Father will not reject me based on my sin. Instead, he accepts me based on the sinless life of Christ. I don’t bring anything to the table anyway.
Worship Song #5: I love this verse in Before the Throne of God Above and I really like Modern Post‘s rendition:
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
Bonus Worship Songs:
Here are two more songs worth adding to your gospel playlist:
Worship Song #6: The Gospel Song is a simple chorus from Sovereign Grace Music worth singing every day as it rehearses the essence of the gospel:
Book Recommendation: Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges is one of the best modern books on helping believers understand the gospel and its implications for daily living.
As you think about overcoming these obstacles, what worship songs would you add to the playlist that help you draw close to God? Add your songs in the comments below.
Prayers for Today:
Self: Lord, I want to draw close to God, but I admit that I frequently run away. Help me to draw close knowing you accept me based not on my righteousness, but on the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Assure me today of my pardon as you cleanse my guilty conscience. Free my heart to worship you with great delight and joy.
Family: Father, I pray my children and family will know the joy of worshiping you freely and without reservation. May they know true forgiveness and know how to offer forgiveness to those who sin against them.
Work: Forgive me for the many ways I hide my faults from my co-workers, pretending to be someone I’m not. I pray you would show me how to be more authentic in my work and may that lead some to place their trust in you.
Church: I pray you would teach our church to delight in the gospel every Sunday and that we would be a place where people find freedom to worship you without fear of judgment or rejection. May our leaders be lead worshipers in our midst.
Community: Lord, would you open my eyes to the needs of those around me and show me practical ways to love them and share the good news of Jesus with them.
World: Master, the world is full of people pretending to be someone they are not. It leads to so much deception and destruction. I pray you would expose the lies that deceive and draw people from every nation to yourself. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.