We all connect with God in different ways. Some people are gifted in public speaking and so feel closest to God while they are sharing the good news to huge crowds of people, while others express their love of God by putting paint to canvas and creating a masterpiece. But what if our freedom to do the things that we love and are gifted at doing was taken away?
Being a worship leader in my local church, I feel closest to God when I pick up my guitar and start to sing, whether that’s in my church leading others in worship or by myself in my room. My iPod is full of worship albums by Hillsong, Soul Survivor, Matt Redman… (the list goes on!) and listening to them will always get me through a tough time as they remind me that God has a plan for my life no matter what I’m going through. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to have to live without these songs that I play and listen to.
But this is the reality for many Christians across the globe today. All across the world, in countries such as North Korea, Syria, Iran and so many more, our brothers and sisters are facing persecution and death for their faith. Worshiping God with guitars, keyboards and drums, something that seems normal to us, is not an option for them. For many Christians the simple act of singing would make enough noise to get them found by the authorities and imprisoned. They have to worship in silence.
I experienced this silent worship for a few moments the other day at an event called Shift the Silence organised by Shift and Open Doors in London. We were joined by Maryam and Marziyeh, two Iranian women who told their story of how they spent nine months in prison for refusing to deny Jesus. They told us of how in their home country you could be executed if the authorities discovered that you were a Christian, and so churches have to meet in secret, silently.
People were closing their eyes, raising their hands and worshiping the Lord with all their hearts, yet the room was completely silent.
During the worship time at this event, in order to experience a small part of what the persecuted church go through, we were told to sing the songs in a whisper with no music. Already this seemed so different to our normality, but then we were told to sing with just as much passion and power as we usually would, but without making a sound. People were closing their eyes, raising their hands and worshiping the Lord with all their hearts, yet the room was completely silent.
The power I felt in the room at that point was incredible, yet I don’t know how I would cope if I could only ever worship like this, if there was never any music, never any noise. But we can! We have the freedom to sing and shout about God! Let’s not take that for granted. Let’s use that to our advantage. Let’s make a noise for the persecuted church.
‘Shout for joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious.’