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Friday, May 13, 2005

Leave my burdens where?

The other day, a good friend of ours was telling us about worship services at her church. After listening to the White Horse Inn episode on Happy Clappy Worship, which points out the glaring lack of suffering in many of today's worship songs, she remarked "Yeah, at my church they tell you to leave all your burdens at home before coming to church."

I've heard this sort of thing hundreds of times. I led worship throughout high school and college for a number of churches--I probably even said it a few times.

Now, the statement makes me cringe. If we are not allowed to bring our troubles to church, where are we supposed to take them?

Every one of us is dragging around a body of death. The road we drag it down--the road of the already justified, not yet glorified, and still being sanctified--is a hard one. The great mistake we make is when we look at our road-weariness as the entire problem. "If only I could be more positive, I wouldn't struggle so much with sin," we tell ourselves.

Paul didn't see it that way. Neither did Jesus.

Some of the most hopeful words written in history were penned by a destitute apostle, facing death at every turn. From Romans 8:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

To Paul, hope is everything. Hope is all he has. And for every last one of us, it will be the same.

We will each face that terrible moment as death creeps across the room to take us. And there, as we face that ultimate enemy we were never created to face, the hope of Christ must be everything.

Will we even be able to pray at that moment? Are we even able to pray now, when suffering can strike us down time and time again? Paul continues, telling us not to worry:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

The worship leader who admonishes you to leave your burdens at the door does not know what he is leading. Through our suffering, we partake of Christ. If our burdens serve only to distract us from God, why would Paul write in verse 17:

Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Our sufferings are an unavoidable part of being a child of God. Our hardships--as bad as they can be--somehow serve a purpose.

Don't leave your burdens at home. Take them to church and pour them out before Christ, week after week. In His words:

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.