July 19, 2022
On Wailing and Worship
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“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth.” John 4:24 (CSB)
I stood and worshiped one Sunday morning while burning tears of grief cascaded down my face. My heart was overflowing with fresh sorrow due to several recent losses in my life.
My worship and pain might have seemed a contradiction. Is it possible to express deep worship while simultaneously revealing intense sorrow? Jesus’ personal encounter with a New Testament woman seems to say worship and wailing can coexist.
One day around noon, a Samaritan woman went to draw water from what was known as Jacob’s well. That’s when she met Jesus, and a conversation ensued.
Jesus began to mention certain details about her life — including the fact that she’d had several husbands and was now living with a man to whom she was not married. His keen insight into her life situation — seemingly without having any prior knowledge — caused her to believe she was talking to a prophet. (John 4:16-19) Well, if there’s a prophet standing in front of you, you’re going to seize the opportunity to ask any questions you have, right?
So she asked Jesus about worship, inquiring if she should worship on the mountain, where her ancestors did, or in Jerusalem, where others said was proper. Jesus replied, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).
The Greek word used here for “spirit” is pneúma and means “spirit (Spirit), wind or breath.” While it sometimes indicates human breath, the most frequent translation of pneúma in the New Testament is written with a capital “S” — Spirit — meaning the Holy Spirit.
The Greek word for “truth” is alétheia. This indicates words that are honest, sincere and straightforward. When we take worshiping in Spirit and couple it with being entirely truthful, we can get two actions that — although they seem opposite — intertwine perfectly together …
Wailing and worship.
Wailing and worship can hold hands. We observe this in over 50 of the psalms penned in Scripture that are classified as psalms of lament, in which the authors cry out to God in times of overwhelming distress or deep despair. The psalmists typically ask God for intervention to deliver them from suffering, sorrow or an enemy. Then these petitions often end with expressions of faith and worship as the author places his trust in God.
But it’s not only in the Bible where wailing and worship hold hands. They can in our lives today.
We can worship both in Spirit and in truth. We can worship God through the power of the Holy Spirit, who leads and guides us. We also can worship in truth. This is no candy-coated worship, full of clichéd spiritual phrases. No, we can be honest, candid and straightforward with God, even going so far as to lament and wail, telling the Lord all about that which is causing pain in our lives. We may do this audibly as we pray to God in a secluded place. We might do it through writing out our sentiments in a journal. Or we can listen to some worship songs about crying out to God, echoing the words in our hearts as we do.
Pour out your heart to Jesus, raw emotions and all. He sees your situation. He understands your pain. And — best of all — He loves you with a deep and unconditional love that will never, ever end.
Heavenly Father, I want to worship You both in Spirit and in truth. Empower me to be authentic in my time alone with You. May I pour out my heart to You, praising You in reverential worship as I do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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If you are facing difficult circumstances or experiencing relational conflict and need some direction and encouragement, you will find it in Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk’s newest devotional, Trusting God in All the Things: 90 Devotions for Finding Peace in Your Every Day.
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FOR DEEPER STUDY
Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before him. God is our refuge.Selah” (CSB)
During those times when you are suffering and sorrowful, what does it mean to you that God is our refuge?
In what ways might wailing and worship hold hands as you pour out your heart to God?
We love hearing your thoughts! Share them with us in the comments.
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