Worship in Suffering

November 16, 2018 — Krystal Craven
Printed title of blog post overlaying a woman with her hands raised in worship.

In James 5:10-11, it says, “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” When Job had just had all his property and children taken away from him in one quick swoop, he tore his robe, shaved his head…and worshiped. He even went as far as to say, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

This kind of submission, acceptance, and worshipfulness is one that I want so desperately to always have. Sure I have times where in my brokenness I come into the presence of Jesus and just worship Him in the midst of it all but it’s not always my go to response to awful circumstances and I wish it was.

Does this sound familiar? Bad things happen, whether that be in us, to us, or around us and our first thoughts are how bad it is and we may even spend time thinking on this for awhile. We may take it further and think about other outcomes, solutions, or what we wish it were instead. We’ll talk about it with other people and hope to find some consolation in it. Then we may or may not take it to God and pour out our hearts before Him, possibly questioning why, and ask Him for whatever outcome or solution we would like or think would be the best. This is honestly just human nature and our desire to understand and control things in a broken, sinful world. Yet, there’s a better way.

It’s not that we can’t go to God with questions and petitions. David in Psalm 55 cried out when he was distraught saying, “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.”(Psalm 55:4-8).  But as he went on further in his thinking and talking to God, that same chapter closed with him saying, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22).

In Proverbs it says, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”(Proverbs 12:25) And how true is this, right? When we’re anxious about anything, especially things we cannot change or influence in any way, it just tears us apart inside. It’s the main thing in our mind, and our heart may even actually, physically ache from it. I’ve known friends who have had anxiety attacks and thought they were having a heart attack. Anxiety does bad things to our bodies. Yet the last half of that little verse says, that a kind word cheers it up. Now sometimes we’ll have friends or family that God uses to speak these kind words, but sometimes we don’t and we feel isolated, forgotten, and hopeless. What are we supposed to do regardless?

Well, the popular bible verses in 1 Peter and Philippians say, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) This may, in our fleshly response in the moment, seem like it’s easier said than done and like it’s just not enough to be helpful. Buuuut, Jesus Himself, the very Son of God who lived a human life here on earth, was tempted the same as us, endured the death of His friends and family, scorned from enemies and had hard days in ministry, endured through physical pain even to the point of death in the most excruciating way, and what did He do through it? Jesus brought it to the Father. He prayed through it! For example:

  1. When His friend Lazarus died, he wept and He felt that sadness. Then we see that although He had talked to the Father, He said an audible prayer for our benefit, “Father, I thank You that You have heard me. I knew that You always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that You sent Me.” (John 11:41-42).
  2. When He had a really rough day, having heard that His cousin (John the Baptist) was beheaded and not getting time to mourn because a large crowd followed Him, spending time healing their sick, and then did the miracle of feeding thousands from 5 loaves and 2 fish, what did He do? Afterwards, He dismissed the crowd and sent His disciples on a boat trip going up on a mountainside alone to pray to the Father (Matthew 14:12-23).
  3. Upon His soon coming arrest and ultimate death, His soul was overwhelmed with sorrow and He chose to go to the garden at Gethsemane and pray to the Father, pouring out His heart and making a petition (Matthew 26:36-42).

Jesus, our great High Priest, practiced what He preached, lead by example, and He told us in Matthew 11 to come to Him. He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus offers such an amazing thing to us…rest in the midst of suffering! We don’t need to change anything, we just need to come to Him in our weariness and burdened state, casting our cares on Him and let Him teach us to be like Him, our gentle and humble King, Prince of Peace, friend, and bridegroom who cares so much for us. How often do we take Jesus up on this offer by coming to Him and taking His yoke upon us and learning from Him?

In Philippians 4, after it tells us to not be anxious but to bring it all to God and that His peace will guard our hearts and minds, there’s a command on what to think about. It says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8). So in the times of suffering and hardship, we’re told to not be anxious about it, to bring it to Jesus who will give us rest, and while some may leave it at that because of the restfulness they’ve received, there should be a progression to respond to God in praise and worship.

In Psalm 94 David said, “If I say, “My foot is slipping, ”Your faithful love will support me, Lord. When I am filled with cares, Your comfort brings me joy.”( Psalm 94:18-19). He said in Psalm 28, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.” (Psalm 28:7). This such a great example of going to God and receiving His strength and joy through it and responding in praise and thanksgiving to Him! The first 5 verses in Psalm 100 tell us to come to Him with praise and thanksgiving, blessing His name simply because He is good and His steadfast love endures forever along with His faithfulness. Regardless of suffering, we should be praising and thanking our God for who He is. How much more of an opportunity for Him to be magnified in our minds when we’re broken and He is near to us, than for us to enter His presence with praise? He is worthy!

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this chunk of scripture that the Lord continually uses to encourage me in when I don’t feel like praising or rejoicing in Him because things are not going well, yet I need even more so to press into Him and focus my eyes solely on Him, Who is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. Therefore, Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)