John Piper, Bob Kauflin on Joy in Worship When Depressed

Preacher John Piper and worship leader Bob Kauflin answered questions on corporate worship emphasizing that Christians can be joyful in singing songs to the Lord even when they are emotionally numb or hurting.

Worship is the experience of being satisfied in God but that satisfaction is not an emotional state, the two ministers clarified during a Q&A session, posted on the group’s website Friday, from the recent Gravity and Gladness seminar organized by the Desiring God ministry in Minneapolis, Minn.

It is not uncommon for believer to have flatness of emotion, broken heartedness for sin, or any other grief, said Piper, pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. However, “being satisfied in God is not a description of any particular outward emotional state.”

Kauflin, who oversees production of Sovereign Grace albums, agreed. “We’re not here [when worshipping] to just get moved by the music,” said the worship leader who trains musicians and leaders for congregational worship. “Being emotionally moved by the music is not the same thing as being morally changed by the Spirit... It’s about seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ as we sing.”

The 65-year-old pastor said you can be “satisfied with God and weeping your eyes out at the death of your mother.”

“You can be satisfied in God while praying and aching for your lost child. And the form that satisfaction in God expresses itself with will vary according to all kinds of locations in life, experiencing in life.”

A depressed but born again person, Piper added, has a “seed of contentment in Christ.” “And the form it might take is, right now I feel nothing; I am totally numb emotionally. But I have a memory that there was once a sweetness of affection, a sweetness of trust… and I by faith believe it’s still down there because theologically, the Bible says it... I now, in this room while everybody is singing and I don’t have any feelings… I am saying to Him, please restore to me the joy of my salvation.”

That sentence coming out of our mouths with “raw faith that is still down there” is crucial, stressed Piper, author of many books, including the award-winning Spectacular Sins. “Because it’s rooted in satisfaction in God that temporarily is clouded over by whatever pain has brought this depression on.”

Piper cited Psalm 40: “I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.”

The pastor said we don’t know for how long the psalmist was in the “pit,” but he prayed to come out of that state. The key to joy in worship for the hurting, Piper suggested, is found in 2 Corinthians 6:10: “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

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