Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise…for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Zach stood off to the side of the stage. Encircled by the worship team, he bowed his head in prayer before walking out to lead the Sunday service.
He had taken the stage hundreds of times, but this time was different.
Earlier that week, his dad had passed away.
Zach’s dad died a homeless alcoholic. He had last seen him six years ago when he dropped him off at a Houston-area motel after picking him up from rehab.
“I could have easily stepped down from worship that week, but I really felt like God pressed me to lean into the pain and lead anyway.”
To lead anyway.
So he did.
“That morning I sang songs from my heart, even though my head wasn’t following. My heart knew Jesus was with me, but my flesh was like, ‘Jesus, You didn’t come through for me like I wanted You to.’”
Zach refused to pretend or perform. He was incapable of that.
“When you’re hurting, you are more sensitive to others people’s hurt. It was way easier to see those people that day. I recall thinking, ‘There is no shortage of people in the church who walk in with a limp.’ I knew I wasn’t alone.
“I wanted to bear the burden for others, and I wanted them to bear mine too. It’s the horizontal implications of worshipping Jesus. I needed people to sing over me and I needed to sing over them.”
When worship ended that day, Zach still had questions. He had prayed thousands of prayers over the years for his dad to be freed of his addiction.
He never was.
What did that say about God?
“I think Jesus wanted healing for my dad more than I did. God presented paths of restoration and I’m deeply grieved that my dad didn’t choose them. That wounded me, but it hurt the Lord, too. I sensed Him saying, I cry over him, too.”
Despite ongoing addiction, God graced Zach with eyes to see his father as a loving presence.
“When I think of my dad, I remember him running next to me on my bike, playing catch with me in the street and cooking dinner on Saturday night. He was an All-American sprinter for Texas A&M. My dad was a good man who was not himself when he drank.”
Even the most painful parts of Zach’s childhood were balanced by his mother’s incredible care. “She was the glue that held us together. She was dealt a really hard hand, but loved me and my siblings so well.”
However, growing up under the shadow of addiction meant Zach desired to fix everything. “I grew up wondering when the room would shift to hell and what I could do to switch it back to happy. There’s a lot of fear there and it is rooted deep.”
A few years ago, Zach sought Biblical counseling.
“It helped me understand that feeling an anxious thought is not sin. But entertaining those anxious thoughts? That is a sin. Because it’s a lack of trust in God.”
He also wrestled with disbelief over the reality of chemical imbalances and the helpfulness of medication. “In my mind, those were just other ways of saying I’d failed.”
Zach’s counselor and his wife Shelby were catalysts for growth in this area.
“Shelby has been the primary conduit of God’s voice in my life. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for so long and Shelby understands that. She has taken every single opportunity to speak love, encouragement, life, and hope over me. Daily.”
It took years of soul searching and being pastored, before God gave Zach clarity. “I got to a point where I took stock of my spiritual state. I realized that I didn’t have unconfessed sin in my life. I wasn’t unrepentant. I loved Jesus deeply. My family and my job were huge sources of such joy.”
But the gray wouldn’t go.
One night Zach came home after seeing a doctor who had prescribed him medication. He set the bottle on the counter without opening it. And for the first time, he let himself feel it all. The anger, the fear, the sadness, the despair. He released the choke points he’d been suppressing for years.
“It was the darkest night of my life.”
But in the morning came a new era of trusting Christ fully.
Zach felt released to admit that taking medication wasn’t failing. Failing was believing that being a Christian meant trying harder instead of trusting more.
Zach is devoted to spending his life worshipping the God he can count on.
“God simply does not change. He isn’t going to go off on a tirade and then show up the next morning crying at the kitchen table telling me He’s sorry. God keeps showing me his unchanging character.”
Ultimately, the broken parts of Zach’s story will always be filtered through the cross. One of his greatest joys has been wading into the waters of fatherhood. He is no longer terrified that his dad’s choices have more power than Jesus’ did.
“When we’re a mess inside, that’s good worship. To come to Jesus with imperfection and doubt and confusion. Like in Hebrews, when it talks about ‘a sacrifice of praise’. I think worship should cost us something.
“Because even on my best day, if I have everything I need and every single resource in the whole world, I still have to take all the people that I love and leave them at Jesus’ feet.” Zach reflected. “I don’t really have anything that I can offer somebody greater than what Jesus can offer somebody.”
Does this story resonate with you? You are not alone. Start a conversation with one of our pastors or fill out the care form at the bottom of this page. Additionally, here is a list of resources to help you take steps towards hope:
LISTEN // Here are some songs Zach found essential in combating anxious thoughts.
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