Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Complaining is an act of worship

Lately, I've been thinking about how much we try to impress God with our worship. We want to say the right things. We want to do the right things. And, rightfully so. When we read Leviticus, it becomes pretty obvious that God takes our service of worship very seriously. At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, God seems rather obsessive about it: bring coals from the wrong fire and He'll kill you.

This is why the Psalms are so refreshing to me. I love the way the penitent will often rake God over the coals for not coming through, not making good on promises, not helping in times of need. These laments sound brash and daringly provocative to my ears that are used to hearing American versions of worship songs, inspiring us to whisper "sweet nothings" into God's ears. I sing about sacrifice. I sing that God is "my everything." But, I'm not sure I mean it.

But, I must tell you. I could really get into songs that would inspire me to be honest to God, especially when I'm considering the suffering of others who are far more faithful than I. Lyrics like, "God, why have you forsaken us?" Or, "How long, O Lord? When will you remember the promises You made to my friends who have been faithful to You?" Or, "Why do you keep a safe distance in our times of trouble?" Those who know the Psalms will recognize these verses. They inspire me. I love the fact that our God is so big He inspired His people to complain to Him when times were hard--even in songs meant for worship. Why would he allow such a thing? Because He knows He's our only hope.

Oh God, please help my friends today. You know who they are. I'm angry that they're going through another impossibly difficult time. Why would you let this happen? Please, be their God. Please take care of them. We have no where left to turn.


jesnicole said...

Dr. Reeves, this brought tears to my eyes. Lately I have felt like I have the plague from looks I have gotten from others because I have dared to voice the questions and complaints in my heart. I know God is my comfort, and He is our only hope. Knowing that He cares and listens is all I have been clinging to. Thank you for making me feel not-so-alone, your words have encouraged me. God be with you and your friends through all this.

Jon said...

I have the opportunity this month to preach at my church. We're taking a look at the book of Ruth. It's interesting that Naomi in chapter 1 vacillates from asking God to bless Ruth and Orpah (v. 8) to being quite angry with Him for ruining her life (vv. 20-21). A certaing commentator noted this and remarked that Naomi must have had a pretty immature faith to do this, but I disagree. She had a strong enough faith to be able to be honest about what she was feeling. I suppose if my spouse and children died, I'd be pretty angry, too! I know personally, the times when I have really "let God have it", when I have told Him in no uncertain terms what I think of Him, that's when He shows up--that's when I feel His presence most.

I could get into some of these songs, too.

Oh, God, why have you let people believe in lies? Why have you allowed men and women to become so entrenched in and enslaved by sin? Why have you allowed their thoughts to become so twisted? Why have you put this desire in me to reach people for you, when the task is so hard?

ben cassil said...

Amen dr. reeves and jessica. Lamenting is a vital part of life. Why do Christians equate worship with happiness?

you might be interested in this, then:

"please, don't make us sing this song. we used to be happy when we were free and young. If i can't remember, may i never sing this song again. by the rivers of babylon we sat and wept, when you asked us to remember Zion."