“How long, Lord ? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2 NIV)
What is the most honest you have ever been with God? Sure, when things are going great, we can be so quick to spit out a hollow, “I’m blessed,” but what about when we don’t feel so blessed? How quick are those praises off our tongue then?
(I am aware that this could very quickly turn into a commentary regarding a subconscious — or even conscious — neglect of the evidence of God’s blessing in our lives. True, many of us really are blessed in so many ways that we fail to recognize, but it is not my intent to address that at this moment.)
What about when we are feel hurt, alone, or even are quite possibly experiencing real suffering and/or persecution?
For myself, I faced a test of this sort at a time in my life when, as a result of numerous actions of my own, I felt isolated from my family, my friends, and my church. This loneliness was only augmented by various thoughts of self-harm, and even suicide. Thankfully, I am as far away from that place as I could ever imagine now, but the pain I was feeling was very real, and very confusing. That I had none to blame but myself only amplified the situation: I was my own enemy in my mind, tormenting myself with guilt and shame, constantly reminding myself of the various costs of my decisions. No matter where I was, I saw judgment and condemnation in every eye. (The truth is that, while there may have been some, most — if not all — of the people I interacted with hadn’t the slightest inclination of what was actually going on in my life.) Nowhere did the weight of my shame crush my spirit more than at church.
I felt alone in a sea of faces. It was the one place I knew I needed to be, and it was the last place I wanted to.
My soul hurt, and the most distant action of all, was worship.
I didn’t feel like God was great and merciful and worthy. The church could save its cheap platitudes. I wanted — I deserved — the God of wrath and fire and retribution. I didn’t want to praise Him: I wanted to fight Him.
So I would sit, stone hearted and alone, while everyone around me sang and worshipped and enjoyed the favor of God’s blessing.
Have you ever reached a point with someone, where they know you’re mad, but you still want to tell them just how mad you are? Would you dare do that with God?
I cussed at Him. I insulted Him. I began to unload all my rage and pain and confusion and frustration and fear and shame and loneliness on Him. Maybe I could make Him mad enough to do something about it. I didn’t really know what to expect.
I never expected Him to just take it.
That’s when I discovered a new understanding of God’s grace. He can handle EVERYTHING I can think to throw at Him. And He answers, not with wrath, but with a gentleness, patience, and kindness that leaves me in awe. God isn’t some insecure, fickle (false) friend, waiting for just the right excuse to leave you behind.
It was out if this new understanding that I began to truly understand worship like I believe David understood worship. God can handle my honesty, and I don’t have to be afraid to bring it to Him.
This revelation set my heart free.
There are still times now when, for various reasons, I don’t “feel” like worshipping. Exhaustion, stress, pain (both physical and emotional): I bring them all to the table now. I lay them at His feet alongside my joys, my thanksgivings, and my blessings. And there I find that I can praise a God who is big enough to not be shaken by my hurt, my fears, or my sins.
“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord ’s praise, for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5-6 NIV)