Worshiping in Pain

The Master's Seminary Blog

Worshiping in Pain

Brian Fairchild | 

It’s difficult to recall the number of perplexed looks I’ve received over the past two-and-a-half years as I have explained to people my doctoral research project. Some have mused that wrestling with lament for this long must be disheartening.

I have experienced the opposite.

My intrigue with lament in the psalter was born from deep grief in my life. I was struggling to adore God with my soul while my wife and I were wading through a miscarriage, the loss of a child that had long been anticipated and prayed for. As this season of struggle continued in my life, it became obvious my trials were not unique. It became apparent that most in our church were in pain, in some form or another. The psalms of lament became something of a somber, unifying anthem for my congregation and I.

Nothing is more helpful to the human soul than to grasp theology that bears immediate impact. As hurting people surrounded by hurting people, our hearts should yearn to connect the Word of God to the hearts of His people. (Emphasis Mine) In a culture of consumerism and neo-positivity, the psalms of lament bring a refreshing balance of reality to our lives as we seek to treasure God from the darkest of valleys.

I would offer the following encouragement to consider revisiting the psalms of lament:

Psalms of lament ground the church theologically

In the psalms of lament, we encounter life and theology in their most raw forms. When the trials of life strike, there is no room for useless theological banter. Sorrow forces us to come to grips with the realities of this world and, more importantly, the beauty and benevolence of the God who reigns.

Reading the psalms of lament is a massive theological distillation process. All the hypotheticals or wrongly held beliefs are stripped away by the shockingly honest heart cries of the psalmist. They expose both man and God for who they are. Theology is too often relegated to musty seminary halls or to the dwindling minds of introverts, but theology belongs in the darkness and pain of life.


The psalms of lament remind us that theology is satisfyingly real


People need this brand of theology coursing through their veins, and so do pastors. So dwell on them, use them to cry out to the Lord, and care for others with them.

Psalms of lament make you a better shepherd

I recently conducted a survey among my church members. I was humbled by the results. Sixty-five percent of my church family indicated they were currently facing a trial in their life. How could I not have known this? I was hurt by my own deficiencies as a shepherd. These are the people I love most; they were hurting, and I knew nothing of the majority of their pain. As a congregation, we began to work our way through the psalms of lament. Sorrow found its way into worship, and more and more hurt began to become evident within our church family. People became less afraid to speak of their struggles. Deep and slow healing began to course through the veins of my church.

The psalms of lament open the hearts of people; they direct the cries of the people to the throne of God; and they help shepherds become more aware of hurting sheep.

Psalms of lament prepare you and your church for the inevitable


We live in a fallen world with expectations only Heaven can satisfy.
Don’t underestimate the danger this poses


If we are not feeling the effects of this broken world now, we soon will be. How can we sustain worship when life becomes difficult, if not impossible? The psalms of lament fortify those who are momentarily happy for the inexpressible brokenness life so assuredly will bring. We are not fulfilling our role as shepherds if we do not prepare our people with an honest assessment of life and care for their needs in their hours of pain.

Jesus Himself prepared His disciples for tribulation and trials; should we not follow His example? What better way to care for others than with the theologically sorrowful, insightful psalms of lament? Prepare people for pain with the Psalms.

Psalms of lament focus people solely upon God

If we as pastors could focus our people’s attention on one object, to give them one driving passion, what would it be? I think we would all agree that “thing” would be the glories and majesty of God. Certainly, all of Scripture points us to the admiration of God. But there are times, if we are honest, that our expositions of long books of the Bible can lose their focus. This is the fault of our exposition, not the content of Scripture. It is a wake-up call that we are struggling in our preaching to focus our people on the glory of God.

When we circle around frequently (as I believe we should) to preaching the psalms of lament, we are forced to focus on the glory of God. Lament strips away our focus on lesser things and draws us to the Great Comforter. The Psalms of lament offer its readers inerrant dosages of the glory of God within the context of suffering.


To lament is to be human; to worship with lament
is the mandate and provision of the Divine King


Connecting the glory of God to the suffering of His people seems a difficult task for the shepherd, but there is a reason these Psalms are included in the sufficient Word of God. As we read the Psalms, may our hearts be softened, His people strengthened, and God exalted as supreme.

To learn more about everything from hermeneutics to homiletics, see our guide: Handling Scripture.

[Editor’s note: This post was originally posted in May, 2018 and has been updated.]


Corporate Worship and the Psalms

Worship God Through the Psalms

Learn the importance of the Psalms in worship with Phil Webb, Matt Boswell, Tom Pennington, Ligon Duncan, Bob Kauflin, Steve Lawson, and more in a self-paced, interactive format.

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Be Who You Are to Me, God

The Master's Seminary

Be Who You Are to Me, God

Abner Chou | 

When reading the psalms, it is easy to read quickly over a word like “rock” and think little of it. We might think that this is just the common language of the day. But the psalmists were theologians, especially David. And packed into this little word is a mountain of theology that travels all the way back to Moses.

Moses was the first to speak about God like this. He was searching for a way to say that God is solid, that He wouldn’t collapse under pressure, that He would always remain the same, that He is stable and reliable—and so Moses called God his rock. He writes in Deuteronomy, “Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock!” (32:3-4)

The word rock is the word used for the face of a mountain. Mountains don’t move. They are strength itself. There is no fear of collapse. They will always hold you up. And Moses said, That’s my God. He will hold us up. He will never break under the pressure. He won’t move.

David read Moses and said, That’s the perfect word for my relationship with God.

We often assume that every psalm-writer refers to God as my rock, but if you actually study the psalter, this is David’s personal name for God. No other person in the Psalter uses “Rock” as a title for God. Why?


Because David learned what it meant for God to be his rock


Here is what it meant to David for God to be his rock:

God’s faithfulness is powerful.

David writes in Psalm 18:2, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Then David proceeds to illustrate this truth. He says that the whole earth shakes when God wants to intervene for His people. What David details in this psalm is the might of God in creation and in the exodus. David says to the Lord, I know you are that faithful. You are powerfully faithful.

Sometimes we talk about God’s faithfulness in imprecise terms. What we too often mean when we speak of God’s faithfulness is that He’s nice. The problem is that niceness doesn’t help anybody. The faithfulness of God has power. It is backed with omnipotence. It is backed with the reality that if a situation demands it, God will move heaven and earth. He will in no way restrict Himself. If His promises are in jeopardy, God will act. God’s faithfulness has substance to it.

CONTINUED AT: SOURCE

Trapped

December 7

Psalms 142:7
Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.

Mikhail was released after seven years in prison. Because of his political views, he had been detained in a small cell, isolated from the other prisoners. His only human contact had been with his jailer, who brought him food once a day. Walking into the sunlight, Mikhail lifted his head skyward, tears flowed down his cheeks, and he began praising God. Many thought he had gone mad in captivity, but others knew that he was merely giving thanks to the one who had sustained him through his imprisonment.

When we find ourselves trapped by situations that have no end in sight, we need to draw on the courage and power of the Lord Jesus Christ. He will enable us to survive any trial, whether it be long or short. We have the assurance that God is greater than any problem that might arise. Call upon the Lord, and He will life you up.

Prayer: Lord, I need to feel Your presence near me. Alone, I get so tired and afraid. This life has many trials that I’m not ready to deal with. Free me from the captivity of my fears and doubts, and empower me to praise Your name always. Amen.

From http://www/crosswalk.com/devotionals

Wisdom from the Psalms – April 19th

I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever. -Psalms 45:17

 The sculptor looked at the piece of stone and thought. His mind whirled at the possibilities the stone presented. He could make anything he wanted. He could carve out great beauty. He could create a monument to himself. He could immortalize a great figure from history. He could sculpt a statement of power and dignity. His mind danced with imagination. He began to dream of the ultimate statement he could make. He looked into the sky and saw the glories there. He looked at the trees and flowers. He watched people walking past. He thought of waterfalls and rainbows and beautiful music. His heart swelled full, and then sank. What could be possibly carved into stone that would do justice to the world of wonder he lived in? He set about his carving, working with great care and determination. After days of labor and love, he unveiled the greatest work his life could offer. Three letters, finely shaped, lovingly created. The greatest legacy the artist could give. The name was GOD.

 Prayer: Make my life a symbol of Your love and a sign of Your grace. I live my life in Your will, trying to be the best person I can be. Accept my life as an offering of love. Amen.