Thursday, August 25, 2005

What Can Miserable Christians Sing?

Carl Trueman argues that by neglecting the Psalms in worship, evangelicals have lost the language of lament. "In the last year, I have asked three very different evangelical audiences what miserable Christians can sing in church. On each occasion my question has elicited uproarious laughter, as if the idea of a broken-hearted, lonely, or despairing Christ was so absurd as to be comical--and yet I posed the question in all seriousness."

What should we do?

First, let us all learn once again to lament. Read the psalms over and over until you have the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax necessary to lay your heart before God in lamentation. If you do this, you will have the resources to cope with your own times of suffering, despair and heartbreak, and to keep worshipping and trusting through even the blackest of days; you will also develop a greater understanding of fellow Christians whose agonies of, say, bereavement, depression, or despair, sometimes make it difficult for them to prance around in ecstasy singing "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam" on a Sunday morning; and you will have more credible things to say to those shattered and broken individuals--be they burned-out bank managers or down-and-out junkies--to whom you may be called to be a witness of God's unconditional mercy and grace to the unloved and lovely. For such, as the Bible might put it, were some of you...

Second, seek to make the priorities of the biblical prayers the priorites of your own prayers. You can read all the trendy sociology and postmodern primers you want, and they may well give you valuable technical insights, but unless your studies, your preaching, your church life, your family life, indeed your whole life, are soaked in prayer and reflect the priorites of the Bible, they will be of no profit to you or anybody else.

And finally, as regards personal ambitions and life-plans, "Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross."

Carl Trueman, "What Can Miserable Christians Sing?" in Wages of Spin, p. 163.