When my wife Jessica and I were first dating, she spent a summer in an inner-city homeless program in the heart of Louisville, Kentucky. The program was partnered with Sojourn Community Church, a local church that seemed to reach a broad spectrum of folks. She was required to attend there during the program, and I would occasionally come with her.
I will never forget the songs they wrote and sung in worship. They were so honest, and used very raw language that I was unfamiliar with when singing to the Lord. They enabled me to sense a greater connection to the Lord, because the language allowed honest expression, with all of my messy self.
As I began to study the Psalms more and more, I realized that their songs were nothing new. David and the other Psalm writers have always expressed themselves–regardless of how messy it got. Psalm 13 is one such Psalm that David wrote for corporate worship. The Psalm shows us 3 ways in which we can worship the Lord in the midst of hardship:
Honest With Your Feelings
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13:1-2, ESV).
David is on the verge of despair. He feels God has forgotten him in his current circumstances. He feels God is deliberately hiding from him and forcing him to face the situation alone. This doesn’t mean that God has abandoned David, but it certainly felt like it. David does not hesitate in venting his anger, worries, and doubts in worship.
Many of us are afraid to be completely honest with God in the way we feel at times. We revert to cliché statements like “God works in mysterious ways.” And, we completely miss the opportunity to deepen our worship and relationship with the Lord through unbridled sharing of our raw, honest hearts.
This is the same kind of honesty we see in Moses when he pleads for the Lord’s presence: “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). The Psalms show us that God’s desire for us is to express our feelings–even when they are messy. This honest expression brings us before God as we are, not a facade.
Cry For Help
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken (vv. 3-4).
Looking at all of David’s Psalms, a great majority of them plead for God to intervene in his current circumstances. Not only were his pleas honest, they also let God know what the outcome will be if he doesn’t intervene. Here, David tells God that if he doesn’t act then he will die and his enemies will celebrate.
While we probably won’t have enemies that are seeking to kill us, or armies encamped against us, we certainly have enemies that can feel just as devastating. You may have a broken marriage, financial turmoil, or a recurring sin that make you feel like there is no hope unless God shows up. God wants us to cry out to Him. He wants us express there being no hope for victory outside of His intervening.
Reaffirming Your Trust
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me (vv. 5-6).
While it is important for us to be raw, honest, and cry for help, it should never stay there. Our honesty and cries should fix our gaze upon the Lord’s character. And his character should always lead us to praise Him. David had experienced the steadfast love of the Lord, and he knows that the Lord will come through in His faithfulness again and again. The Psalm shows us that even in the midst of our hurt, doubt, anger, and worries, God is faithful and worthy to be praised.
We can often either neglect honesty in our worship, or neglect praise in the midst of trouble. The Psalms call us to both.
- Incorporate a Psalm a day into your Bible reading and prayer. By letting the words of the Psalm become your words, you will broaden your biblical expressions of worship.
- Seek to not only be honest with your feeling in worship, but also to praise God in the midst of your troubles.
Chris Adkins, Worship Pastor