I am always amazed at the Living Stones Church the life stories that gather each Sunday. How in the world does the Spirit of God minister to each person who comes from such radically different weeks? Bad weeks…tragic weeks…scary weeks…triumphant weeks…victoriously happy weeks, etc. All sitting together under one roof, and one name, Jesus Christ.
I see it on the prayer requests every week. Not everyone is O.K. And I’m sincerely thankful that people who are not O.K. still wake up and say to themselves (and probably with every ounce of their being not “feeling” like it) I will go and worship God.
Church just can’t always be for the yippy skippy. It can’t just be for the obnoxiously blessed who want to throw around “hallelujahs” and “praise the Lords” etc. It can’t be just for the perpetually happy. It must also be a place for the depressed, for the discouraged, for the diseased, for the “I’m-not-OK-today” kind of folks who somewhere in their spirits hope to find happiness but see no glimmer of its rays.
After Father’s Day we will begin a four week study out of the Psalms. I like the Psalms because it gives us language when we aren’t OK. Faith language. The ability to say to God, “How long?” “Where are you?” “Don’t you see my tears?” “When will you get up and do something!?” While it might not seem like it, this is also the language of faith. Because it acknowledges that in the midst of pain, our answer still lies in God. If I can’t get my answer from you (“How long? Why?”) then I’m not getting an answer.
I’ve heard from others that they couldn’t come to church because they weren’t O.K. They were depressed. They were going through a tough spot in life, etc. I would say if you are working under the assumption that you can only come to church if you can plaster a smile on your face or give the impression that you got it all together and are now ready to join in the “happyfest” of worship…then you have the wrong assumptions about what it means to be church and what it means to worship.
If you are depressed, discouraged, and diseased…then church…the people of God…the presence of God, and THE WORSHIP OF THAT GOD in community, is precisely what you need! And you don’t need to “fake it” to be there. Come…and if others are happy…let them be…but if you are not O.K…express in the language of faith your complaint, your lament, and your interrogation…our God can handle it all! If you withdrawal from him and the community of His name, depression, discouragement, and disease will be harder…last longer…and my experience has been, you become susceptible to far graver things.
I heard someone say one time (I think it was Eugene Peterson) that church is to us as bark is to a tree. It might not be the most glamorous part of the tree. It has its rough edges and its twisted looks, etc. but it is absolutely essential as protection for the vulnerable core inside. Without the bark, the tree will become exposed and vulnerable…and will die. And without the church, our spirits will wither, become vulnerable, and begin to die.
Psalm 69:3 – I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.
Psalm 69:29-30 – I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me. I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.