Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Help for the Weary Worshipper

Early on in my walk with Christ I assumed that the only type of worship/devotion that the Lord was pleased with was that which exuberant. I would beat myself up for any worship which wasn’t some sort of absolute surrender. Baby steps of devotion were unacceptable in my mind. After all, this is the King of Glory. How could I give him anything else?

And I was partially correct. But I’ve since come to believe that there is a type of weary worship that is also pleasing to the Lord. John Piper has provided great help to me in this area. In his book, Desiring God, Piper outlines three stages of worship.

The final stage is that which can be described by “unencumbered joy in the manifold perfection of God”. This was the only stage that I formerly acknowledge. But Piper notes the other stages which are also part of my experience. The second stage is when “we often taste, we do not feel fullness but rather longing and desire.”

I believe this is the stage that John Newton describes when he says:

Blessed be his name for a taste, though it be but a taste, of the water of life. I long for fuller [drinks], and I trust he has given me that hungering and thirsting after righteousness, which shall at length be satisfied, and which cannot be satisfied with anything short of his love.

Often I cry out, “Oh! remember me with the favor [you give to your own people]”. I know there are heights and depths in communion with God, to which many of his dear children [experience], which are far beyond my present [experience]. But this rather encourages me; that they too were once as poor as myself, and have nothing now any more than I, that they can call their own; and he who has done so much for them, is rich enough to do as much for me…I desire to praise His name for what he has already shown me, and to hope in his mercy that I shall yet, ‘see greater things than these”.

Yes, there is a type of worship that is in the longing. But there is also a darker type of worship. One that Piper says is “where all genuine worship starts” and that is in “the barrenness of soul that scarcely feels any longing, and yet is still granted the grace of repentant sorrow for having so little love.” Piper continues:

Worship is a way of gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth. This is the ideal…Yet He is also glorified by the spark of anticipated gladness that gives rise to the sorrow we feel when our hearts are lukewarm. Even in the miserable guilt we feel over our beastlike insensitivity, the glory of God shines. If God were not gloriously desirable, why would we feel sorrowful for not feasting fully on His beauty? (97)

Something wonderful often happens when I find myself in this dark season and meditate on the truth that God accepts my brokenness and repentance for not being emotionally broken. My heart starts to come alive a little. I start to bask in His goodness for accepting such a miserable follower. And I slowly rise to that second stage of worship and cry out, “more Lord Jesus, more!” Occasionally he’ll answer with what Newton called “one single glance of his love” and before I know it I’m in passionately worshipping.

It’s comforting to know that no matter where this weary worshipper finds himself the loving embrace of Jesus is right there. That’s enough to cause me to drop the “weary” and just worship.

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