No Other Name – an Ottawa-wide conference that takes place on Good Friday every year, where hundreds of youth from all over the city gather to encounter God, and to understand what Christ accomplished on the cross.
As the worship team, we had been practicing a solid set list since December. Lots of work and prayer had been put in to prepare, and by God’s grace, it was all coming together so smoothly. I hadn’t gotten sick all winter, and was so hopeful that for once in my life, my voice would be in tip-top shape for the day.
The day of the dress rehearsal, 3 days before the event, I wake up to a scratchy throat.
A vocalist’s worst nightmare.
God, is this seriously happening?
Prayers were said, and the salt water gargling ritual began.
In the previous week I had been praying so hard against any prideful attitude that could possibly arise from leading worship at an event this big. Internally, It was a trying week for me. I wrestled hard, and found myself reminded of God’s sufficiency and faithfulness to uphold me in my temptations and trials. It felt like I had one hurdle done and over with right? I should be in the clear. But the devil had other plans. In the next few days leading up to No Other Name, on top of my head cold, I got hit with sudden anxiety and nerves. And all of this made no sense, because I’d done things like this before, so why was I feeling sick to my stomach with nervousness and fear? And no matter what I tried to throw at it, the anxiety would not budge.
The attacks were unreal. And I’m so thankful for the prayers and the words of truth spoken by my friends, because God used them to speak supernatural peace into my life. I had been wrestling against these sudden feelings of unworthiness, and the tempting lies saying that God would just let me fall flat on my face, because He didn’t actually want me up there leading worship in the first place. While the barrage of spiritual attacks were heavy, I honestly hadn’t realized how my view of God and His love was still so distorted until these anxieties came forward. And when the truth of God’s character, His kind and gracious love for me, and His delight in me, was spoken into my life, the anxieties melted away instantly. It was wild. I was anxious one minute, then truth came, and the weight was gone.
I woke up Good Friday morning, throat still scratchy, and over and over the words of 2 Corinthians 12 entered my thoughts: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And quite honestly, a dry throat and cough act as the perfect thorn for a vocalist. That morning, I found great assurance and excitement in the truth that God’s power would be revealed in my weakness, and that regardless of my ability, His plans for the day would still prevail. While I started the day hopeful, and on a high, my trust began to waver as the day progressed. And I didn’t realize it had, until I found myself reflecting on the day’s events the following morning. As we sound checked with one of the songs I was leading, I felt my throat drying out faster than I could hydrate it, and by the end of the song I could barely hold the notes without my voice cracking. My heart sank.
“I can’t do this. I’m not going to make it.”
My human estimations started to overwhelm my thoughts and my trust. After all, how was I supposed to lead two songs that were challenging for my range even when my voice was at its best? The despair was hitting me hard.
But even in the midst of my fears of failure, I still had the constant encouragement of friends coming in, reminding me not to dwell in the negatives, and to keep on believing that God had this, and that I could do it. While I didn’t believe them at the time, looking back on what they had said was more than just words to keep me positive, they were words to keep me trusting in God’s ability, and His grace, instead being so fixed on my inability.
God’s grace prevailed, even in my doubts. As I led “Who You Say I Am”, my heart focused in hard on the lyrics, and as I sang them out, the truth hit me so hard, beating down my prior anxieties to dust. No one can judge my identity, nor give or take away my identity, not even myself, my identity is established in God and by God alone, and He has welcomed me so warmly into His family, and His home. Just thinking on all His love while I sang, lent so much passion and power into my voice, and by grace, I made it through the song, my voice giving out just at the very end.
The next morning I woke up, sat down with my Bible and devotional book and reflected on the events of No Other Name. God had this to say to me, from Oswald Chambers:
“When it is a question of God’s Almighty Spirit, never say “I can’t.” Never let the limitation of natural ability come in. If we have received the Holy Spirit, God expects the work of the Holy Spirit to be manifested in us.”
-Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest
God just called me out. Ouch.
I honestly hadn’t realize I had failed to trust God that day, until reading this, which made it all come together. But even so, I think it was gracious of Him to show me this post-event. God disciplines those He loves.
While God had graciously carried me, despite my doubts, He also had to address the issue of my fleeting trust when the circumstances didn’t look good. As I had mentioned before, I had become so fixated on the circumstances, and my inability, that all trust I had in God, and His ability to carry out His greater will (and not necessarily heal my vocal cords, or make my singing better), had unraveled. I let circumstances become bigger than God, and I lost the battle. So I met Him in repentance, and up in my mind came visions of Him graciously picking me up in my stumbling.
A good friend told me that in this circumstance I reminded her of Peter – passionate to pursue Christ as he stepped out of the boat, sinking into deep depths when faced with scary circumstances, but being lifted out by his Savior, and always ready to try again. That analogy was prime encouragement for my heart. It gives me great hope.
All this circumstance was God’s providence. While I served His purpose for me in being a part of leading hearts to Christ through the music, behind the scenes, He was also providentially using this day, and its hurdles to draw me closer to Himself. It was as a result of this event as I came face to face with the distorted ideas of His love and His character I didn’t realize I still had. And I also experienced what it is like to be zealous for God, fall on your face, have Him graciously rebuke me, and lift me up only to keep moving forward.
Our circumstances are never just things that happen to us randomly, or without cause or purpose. God is constantly at work in them, using them, working out deeper things in us. He takes our weaknesses, failures, overwhelming circumstances, even small disruptions, and uses them to sanctify us, bringing us and others ever closer to Himself. All we need is to seek Him at every turn, ready to surrender to whatever He has planned.