“Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song…Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker…” (Psalm 95)
When I hear the phrase “make a joyful noise” several different images come to my mind: my dad shouting “Amen” during a sermon, cheering for Italy during penalty kicks of the Euro Cup finals, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir at Christmas, shouting at the top of the mountain after a long hike, sitting next to my cousin singing his heart out at a church service, clapping for my students at graduation, listening to the NJ Symphony Orchestra, or singing along to my favorite songs in the car.
Most of the images I mentioned remind me of special moments, accomplishments, or an appreciation of something. What is there that is more beautiful than Jesus? Everything that we find beautiful is only a glimpse of His glory (Psalm 19:1). And what accomplishment is greater than His sacrifice? John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus has given us the greatest love accomplished through his sacrifice on the cross. So if everything pales in comparison to Jesus and what He accomplished for us, then there should be no hesitation in making a joyful noise. So what holds us back?
- What Others Think – I grew up in a small Italian Pentecostal church in which singing, clapping, and raising your hands were expected. Worship in that way became pretty natural for me even as a teenager. But sometimes my worship felt empty and I wondered – am I doing this so others will think I’m more spiritual? Maybe you feel the opposite – what will others think of me if I’m more expressive in worship? Or I don’t have a good voice so I don’t want others to hear me? Remember to whom your worship: he is the only one that matters.
- Feeling Uncomfortable – When I first came to GRC, the liturgy was something brand new to me and it was weird for me to read responsively. At first, I just read along silently, but the more I actively participated the more I grew in appreciation of speaking truth out loud together – calling each other to worship. Maybe for you clapping or raising your hands feels uncomfortable. I encourage you to actively participate in an area that may seem “weird” to you because it may enhance your worship in a way you didn’t expect.
- Circumstances of Life – When I face difficult times, I often don’t feel like singing. But sometimes the action of actually singing out loud brings me to a place of hope and trust. And other times I feel overwhelmed by God’s great love for me that I just cry. Praise allows me to let go of the cares of this world and it is often where I feel most free.
The cousin I mentioned earlier is tone-deaf, but I loved sitting next to him because he was so genuine in his worship. He could have stayed quiet knowing his singing didn’t sound “pretty” but the reason he sang was greater than his own insecurity and that was always an encouragement to me. Ephesians 5:19 “…speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord…” When we sing as a congregation, we are encouraging each other. I have ultimately learned that there is no right or wrong way to praise God because He sees the motivations of our hearts. So, however, you choose to worship, remember who it’s for, that He is worthy of every expression of praise, and that He is sovereign over everything.
Paola Brown is a school counselor and track coach at Garfield High School. She is part of the Worship Team and has been attending GRC with her husband, Ralph, for over ten years.