How to Worship When You are Wounded

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By Rick Warren, CP Guest Contributor
December 18, 2006|7:23 am

Everybody goes through wounding experiences in life – even those of us in ministry. Whether these wounds are physical, spiritual, emotional, or relational, they’re either in your life now or they’re coming. So what do we do when we’re wounded? Worship. It’s the only antidote to our pain.

Job is a great example of this. He lost everything – his wealth, family, friends, and health – in a 24-hour period. In one day, Job goes from a hero to a zero. Throughout the book of Job we see a man who is deeply wounded: physically, emotionally, and relationally. Yet the book also tells the story of how Job worshiped God instead of becoming bitter.

How do you do that? How do you connect with God during a crisis in your life? Many of you had a crisis this week. Others have been carrying around wounds your entire life and haven’t been able to get rid of them. To worship in the midst of this pain, you need to:

1. Grieve. Tell God exactly how you feel. You need to unload all of your feelings. When you share your feelings with God, when you trust him with your pain, you’re worshiping – even when those feelings are negative.

Job expressed his pain to God. Job 1:20 (CEV) says: “Job stood up, he tore his robe in grief, shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped.” In the ancient Middle East, that’s what people did when they wanted to express frustration, anger, or deep grief – they tore their clothes.

God did not make our bodies to handle negative emotions. God never designed them that way. When we swallow our emotions, our stomach keeps score.

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So the first thing you do when you experience pain in life is confess it. Tell God you don’t like what happened – it stinks! Don’t worry. God can handle it.

2. Praise God. After you grieve, praise God in spite of your circumstances. Don’t thank God for your problems, but thank him in the midst of your problems.

Job’s story is in the Bible for one question. Will I worship God if everything goes wrong in my life? Would you? It’s easy to worship God when everything’s going your way. It’s easy to be a fair weather believer.

But what happens when everything goes badly in your life? Would you still trust God? That’s the ultimate test of faith. You’re going to be tested. That’s guaranteed. At some point in your life, everything is going to fall apart.

Yet there’s a lot you can praise God for even when life is bleak. I used to think life was mountains and valleys – highs and lows. But the longer I live, the more I realize that’s not reality. There’s never a time in your life when everything is perfect. And there’s never a time in your life when everything is bad. Actually, life is more like two rails on a railroad track. One of them is the good things in your life and the other one of them is the bad. You get both all the time.

Job chose to thank God in spite of his pain – and so can you.

3. Ask God for wisdom and strength. When we’re wounded, more than anything else we need wisdom and strength – to know what to do and to get the power to do it. Throughout his story, Job depended on God for wisdom and strength.

You don’t think straight when you are wounded. You start thinking goofy thoughts, such as retaliating and getting revenge. You need wisdom. The Bible says this: “True wisdom and real power belong to God. From him we learn how to live and also what to live for.” (Job 12:13 MSG)

You also need strength – the power to do the right thing. Psalm 37:39 says, “The Lord saves good people and he is their strength in times of trouble.” (NCV)

I don’t know what kind of problem you’re going through right now, but I do know that God is waiting to strengthen you. When you become a follower of Jesus Christ, you have the exact same problems before you became a follower of Jesus. You’re not exempt! But now you have God’s wisdom and strength available to you – so ask him for it!

4. Gather with others for support. God doesn’t want you to worship by yourself. You were never meant to handle all your pain – and all of your wounds – alone. If you haven’t learned how to share your pain, you’ll never get well. You’ll hurt the rest of your life.

Here’s the problem: When we’re wounded, it is human nature to withdraw. When we get hurt, we put up barriers. We put up boundaries. We put up walls. We pull back into a shell. We lock ourselves into self-imposed prisons. That’s just stupid. You’re never going to get well until you learn to open up again.

That’s why even pastors need to be in a small group – a group of others in ministry and a group in your church. A recent survey said that 25 percent of Americans say they have no close friends to depend on. If you don’t need a small group, you will. You’re going to need people who are committed to you that when everything drops out of your life, they’ll still be there.

5. Keep on going. Did you know that keeping on keeping on is actually an act of worship? In Job 2, Job’s wife suggested that he “curse God and die.” She suggests her husband end his pain on the spot by killing himself. But Job refuses. Instead he says, “Though he [God] slay me yet will I trust him.”

That is the ultimate statement of faith. When all looked doomed, Job trusted God and kept going.

What gave Job that kind of depth? In Job 19:25, Job says, “I know that my redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” Job expected a coming savior, a redeemer.

Any pain you have is relatively short compared to eternity. One day, if you’ve put your trust in God and in his redeemer, then you’ll live with him forever in eternity. And there will be no more pain there, and no more suffering, and no more sorrow. So hang on by not looking at the here and now but by remembering what God has planned for you in eternity.

Those of us in ministry are not exempt from pain. Whether you’re experiencing pain because of unfair criticism, exhaustion, or even a problem you caused yourself, or if there is pain from your past that you’ve never dealt with, please don’t ignore it. Don’t let it rob your ministry and block the worship you should be giving God. Deal with it today. Grieve for the pain that’s in your life. Praise God in the midst of the pain. Ask God for wisdom and strength. Gather with others for support. And keep on keeping on.

Remember, your redeemer lives!

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Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and best-known churches. In addition, Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose-Driven Life and The Purpose-Driven Church, which was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th Century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for ministers. Copyright 2005 Pastors.com, Inc. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

 

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