Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Every time I’m in a worship service and the song leader suggests we raise our hands in praise, I cringe. I get a little sweaty and my mind starts racing.
What is wrong with you?
Why can’t you raise your hands?
I know. I should raise my hands. I want to. I do. But . . .
What if I look weird? What if they notice?
It’s just not like me. I’m not a raise-your-hands kind of girl.
You mean you’re not a praise-the-Lord kind of girl?
Just. Raise. Your. Hands.
Ahhh! It’s not a big deal, but it feels like a big deal!
Isn’t it enough to tap my foot?
Is this song ever going to— oh good, it’s over now.
Growing up in a small-town, traditional hymn-singing church, it never even occurred to me to raise my hands during worship until I witnessed my friends doing just that in college. in fact, closing my eyes while belting out my favorite songs was as expressive as I got back then— and even that felt out of place.
One Sunday, though, my internal debate was interrupted by my five-year-old standing next to me. As soon as she saw me notice her raised hands, she wanted to talk about it. “Mommy, why aren’t you holding your hands up? Look! I’m holding up my hands for Jesus! You do it too, Mommy!”
So for once, I did the thing that my heart often longs to do but that feels so awkward and even scary: I raised my hands.
The specific way we worship isn’t the point. The point is that for years I’ve ignored the urge to let go and worship the way that expresses my true feelings. I’ve remained content to worship half-heartedly because what others might think was more important to me than what God has placed in my heart and what I long to say to him.
For my daughter, though, it was so much simpler than that. She heard the worship leader suggest we raise our hands, she felt joy as she sang about Jesus, and she raised her hands up high to express all those things.
Just like that.
Oh, to be courageously joyful like a child!
People worship God in so many different ways. Expressing our love and gratitude and joy in the Lord shouldn’t be about how we look or following a set of rules. And yet sometimes we can feel intimidated or embarrassed when it comes to worship.
But do you know who never seems to feel self-conscious or reluctant to share their true feelings? Children.
When children sing songs to and about the God they’ve been taught loves them, their unblemished, unabashed joy cannot be contained. Without filters or fear, they jump and sing and dance their praise to the Lord, never afraid of what the kid jumping and singing and dancing next to them might think. Why can’t we do the same?
Jesus knew we could learn much from observing little children. in Luke 18:16–17, he urged his followers to be more like children.
Raising your hands, dancing, or singing at the top of your lungs is not necessarily more holy or joyful than other styles of worship. Perhaps you feel more connected to God when folding your hands, kneeling, or even spending time in nature. Worshiping God with courageous joy simply means responding to God in the way he created you to be in relationship with Him, rather than allowing your expressions of joy to be affected by fear, uncertainty, or perceived expectations.
Think of a child you know or perhaps imagine your younger self. Can you picture her dancing and twirling through the temple courts as described in Psalm 100, singing with delight— smile wide and eyes bright— at the sheer anticipation of being in God’s presence? Watch in your mind’s eye as the Father wraps His child in a huge embrace.
That is the wonder of God’s love.
That is the joy available to us today because we know our hope and salvation are secure in Jesus (John 10:28).
God, I love You so much! I do. When I think about how much You love me — enough to come to earth, live a sinless life, and die for my sins so we would no longer be separated — I want to shout it from the rooftops! I can’t contain my joy — or at least I don’t want to. But sometimes I don’t know what to say, or I’m afraid of looking foolish in front of others. Will You give me the courage to share my joy with abandon — before You and before others? Thank You, God. Amen.
Devotion by Mary Carver, adapted from Courageous Joy: Delight in God through Every Season
Living with courageous joy is both breathtakingly simple and beautifully complex. What if you could find joy in every circumstance you face and to share it with everyone you encounter? You can! Get a free week and learn more about the Courageous Joy Bible study!Leave a Comment