Monday, May 17, 2010

Grief and Worship

My past few days...
- Talked with a woman who's family is being torn apart after the death of her grandmother
- Talked with a couple who have just had a mis-carriage; this on top of a number of other disappointments and trials they've had to endure
- Talked with a man who's wife has left him after 30 years of marriage
- Talked with another woman who's husband is dealing with an addiction issue that is threatening their marriage and family
- Dealt with a tearful night of my own; looking at my son, Brennan, and realizing he won't know my mother or my grand-mother.

All these circumstances and conversations I've had in the past week have caused me to pause and consider the role that worship plays in all of this.  How do we worship through our grief and our pain?

First of all, the caveat is this - part of my role as Associate Pastor at Northlake includes leading worship.  What this means is this; as I dealt with my grief over the past two years at the loss of my Mom, my Grandmother, and our own mis-carriage, I did not really have much of a choice in worship.  Whether I felt like it or not, I had to open my lips and sing songs of worship.  I confess to you that many Sundays I didn't feel like singing or worshiping at all.  I hurt too much and wanted little to do with singing.  But then here lies the ironic thing; as I worshiped God, through my grief, my mind and heart would be lifted...sometimes momentarily, but lifted nonetheless...and my focus would move back to Him.  Often tears would come, or I'd have to choke back emotion.  This is a part of worship, though.  Tears, pain, grief, our Lord is familiar with all our suffering and pain.

Is worship a cure-all?  No.  A pain-eraser?  Definitely not.  But still, there's a depth to worship that only those who've worshiped through their pain and grief can understand.  A few points on this;

1) Is your worship of God a result of your circumstances, or do you worship Him regardless of your circumstances?  It's easy to sing and praise in times of blessing...but what about in times of want and deep pain?

2) Inch-wide or mile-deep?  I fear that much of our worship of God is "surface" worship.  Of course, nobody knows the answer to that except God, who lays bear all the motives of man.  But I know for myself, oftentimes I feel like I'm simply "going through motions" in worship.  Grief has a way of removing every pretension and exposing our bear heart's before a Holy God.

3) And when we do this...worship through our pain, our anger, and our hurt?  We find the greatest thing we could ever hope to find...GRACE.  Not condemnation, but grace.

 3 "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." (2 Cor 1:3-4)

4) Ultimately, worshipping through our grief brings us to a deeper relationship with Christ.  It's a natural outcome of walking through a storm together.  My relationship with Julie, my wife, would not be what it is today if we had never gone through any trial or pain together.  So it is with God.  My relationship with Him would be lacking were it not for some of the pain He's led me through.  When you're in the middle of it, you don't see how it could possibly be helping; but when you get past it, you look back and see God's hand and voice of grace.

And for those of you who are in that place right now, and can't see a way out, I leave you with this;

 26 "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." (Romans 8:26-27)

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