Have you ever heard a pastor or worship leader ask you to leave your worries at the door when you enter a worship service? Or worse, have you ever been in a church gathering where someone, perhaps even clergy, prayed that you would forget your troubles in order to better worship God? (Passive aggressive prayers are the worst.)
We know, of course, what these people mean. They want us to be able to completely focus our attention in worship on the One who is worthy of our praise. They want us to set aside the morning’s struggle to get the kids up, fed, dressed, and wrangled into the minivan. Their motives are good; they simply don’t want us distracted by petty concerns.
But such a sentiment, that we’re to leave all distractions behind in order to engage with the Lord, inadvertently perpetuates a basic falsehood about the Father.
To invite people to leave their struggles at the door of the sanctuary is to suggest that God is not concerned with your troubles. It implies He doesn’t want to hear your sob stories. All God really wants, we are unconsciously told, is your flattery. We must tell God how great He is, even though He doesn’t want to hear about what’s bothering us.
Such imagery, however, is completely contrary to the God of the Bible. The picture of the Lord given in Scripture is a God who is entirely concerned with the problems of humankind, generally, and people, individually. He is the God who delivered the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, who answered Hannah’s prayer for a child, who responds to Hezekiah’s prayers for health in the face of death, and who saves all humanity from the effects and power of sin. The biblical God is a God who cares deeply about the concerns of people.
Let’s not leave our hardships at the door of the church. By all means, let’s bring them in and wail loudly for the Lord to act on our behalf. Then, let’s watch and listen for how He might meet our need. (It may not come as we expect it.) Let’s see, then, if we aren’t able to fully to worship our God, our deliverer.