Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
The church service went as well as could be expected. The small gymnasium was perfect for the contemporary service setting and most of the chairs were occupied. Like a lot of contemporary services, it began with a succession of three or four songs all focused on praising the glory of God; some of the lyrics included phrases such as: “Your love never fails,” “He’s been so good, so so good to me, Jesus,” and “you are amazing God!” Immediately following the collection of praise songs, there was a time of welcome, a brief reading from scripture, and then a focused sermon with images and themes being displayed on two screens hung from the ceiling.
I don’t remember much about the sermon except for the refrain: “God loves you no matter what!” The preacher’s perfectly executed contemporary outfit (Black Tee-Shirt with Blue Jeans) was matched with a consistently dynamic smile throughout the message. I wanted some of whatever he was having.
After another dose of positive and uplifting music to close out the service, we were all dismissed to re-enter the world. I stood in the back watching the people neatly file out of the gymnasium, observing sporadic examples of fellowship between people. In the corner I noticed an older woman, clearly frustrated with something, and trying to vent her frustrations to those around her. When it became clear that no one was listening to her, I walked over to ask if something was wrong. “I can’t stand services like this!” she nearly shouted, “Its just too happy!” And with that she threw her complimentary coffee in the trash, and left the building.
Have you ever felt that way in worship? Have you noticed the abundance of smiling faces in worship, discovered the overwhelmingly uplifting nature of some hymns, all brought together with a happy and positive sermon delivered with three primary points? Have you ever felt suffocated by the amount of joy that some worship services attempt to produce?
Christian discipleship is not a blindly happy-go-lucky journey. There should be more time and focus in worship devoted to the suffering that is present in each of our lives (however small or large). The psalmist writes, “Out of the depth I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice!” Sometimes, the most appropriate form of worship is clenching your fists and shouting out those same words.
So, do not be conformed to the ways of so many churches that appear to say that happiness is a requirement for discipleship. If you are deep in one of the valleys of life right now, I encourage you to cry out to God. If you are on one of the mountaintops of life right now, open your eyes to the needs of those around you, and make God’s presence known through your actions.