"Choosing" to worship God

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Not "feeling" close to God today...if so, keep reading please!

I received the following question this morning from a friend:  I think its one all of us have asked.  Thankfully we have a solid Biblical answer to offer ourselves and our world, and I wanted to share it today.

Here is the question:

"I've been wondering for a long time if you have to be emotionally connected in order to really worship. For a while I thought no, that's just something that people feel like they need for it to feel real. But then I had a talk with someone and he was saying that if we aren't emotionally connected, do we really understand the depth of God's grace and understanding and love? But if the answer is yes, we do need an emotional connection, what do we need to do in order to have that connection every time with The Lord? And if we aren't feeling emotionally connected does that mean we aren't sincere? And that doesn't mean I have to cry everytime I worship right? I'm not really sure what to think!"

Here is my reply:

"good to hear from you, and what a great question you raise. Im so glad you asked it. The simple answer, the Biblical answer, is easy...its "no, you dont have to be emotionally connected to offer true worship."
Now for a longer explanation. I'm approaching my answer from the presupposition that what you mean by "emotionally connected" is that every time you enter into a worship time with God you get that awesome joyful feeling of his presence and overwhelming thankfulness for what he has done for you? And that if for some reason you don't get to that place emotionally you havent really or fully connected with God. If that's what you mean, then FOR SURE the answer is "no." here's why I can say that biblically...just read the book of Psalms, so many of them are what are called "lament psalms" and in them the author (often David) is having a really bad day, not at all feeling spiritual, not sensing God's presence, not in the mood to worship at all, and certainly not having what we would call a "spiritual experience" with God. However, in the midst of that situation the author "chooses" (and that's a key word) to praise God, to reflect upon his goodness, to rehearse God's faithfulness/goodness EVEN THOUGH his emotions are telling him other things at the moment...so the author begins to praise God despite his feelings and emotions.
Psalm 13 is the clearest example of this I think...look how David "chooses" to praise God and declare his goodness (v 5-6) even though he feels like God has "forgotten him forever" (v 1-4). Psalm 31 is another great example. look at the terrible circumstances David is in (v 1-13)...then there is a "but" in verse 14 and David begins to "choose" to focus on God's character. That's the point. Its a choice you have to make sometimes, and it is very much NOT easy to do in the difficult times of life, and in the more mundane times, when for whatever reason, there doesn't seem to be much to be thankful for. It is precisely in those moments that you are in THE TRUEST PLACE to offer to God TRUE AND REAL PRAISE..which is to say to him "God, despite how I feel, I choose to declare your goodness today, and I will praise you for the truth of who you are and what you have done despite how I feel right now." That IS true worship, its as true as the best of those awesome worship times where we do encounter and engage with God emotionally and experience the emotional joy of his presence.
This type of attitude towards God is precisely what Paul asks the church in Philippi to "choose" (again that's a key word) when he says " whatever is true,, honorable, just, pure, pleasing...worthy of praise etc..focus on these things" (Philippians 4:8-9). The obvious reality is that there were lots of things the church in Philippi could focus on that WERE NOT praiseworthy etc. They instead must "choose" to worship God despite those things."

This morning I asked the Lord to somehow encourage me and show me that what I'm doing here at the ESBS is worth it, and meaningful.  This e-mail is God's answer to that prayer.  The first thing I did when I received the question was think "Psalms!"...and immediately I reached into my file box and dug out my psalms assignment from when I was a student in this same program.  I quickly found 10 or more lament and imprecatory psalms that, over a decade ago, I had spent hours and hours color coding, assigning titles to, categorizing, and allowing the holy spirit to download into my mind.  In minutes the the answer was there, but minutes TODAY came at the expense of 10 MONTHS back then...and today Im reminded personally that it was TOTALLY worth it!  
Jesus meant what he said in John 8:31-32:
"If you continue in my word you are truly my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."