There is a strong tendency today to plan worship services as exclusively cheerful experiences- to make sure everyone is smiling and happy. It perpetuates the myth that we need to take care of our mess before we can approach God in worship. Maybe it’s related to the fact that we come to church and find ourselves surrounded by attractive people who are beautifully dressed. We sit in a beautiful sanctuary, hear beautiful music and beautifully crafted prayers, and greet so many beautiful smiles.
No wonder it can be hard to come to church when you feel anything but beautiful.
Years ago, I heard a pastor say at the beginning of his pastoral prayer, “Let’s block out all of the distractions and concerns and go to the Lord in prayer…” As if God is not the very one to deal with all that distracts us!
Now don’t misunderstand, there certainly is joy in the presence of the Lord, but that joy does not come because we tidy everything up or leave everything behind. We gain joy from the Lord because we bring to him all of our junk and let him redeem it. Think about it: if we check all our baggage at the door at the beginning of worship, it would all be right there waiting for us when we leave.
The point is this: God wants all of us- not just the cleaned up parts. In our coming to worship, it is imperative that we bring everything- our joys, sorrows, sins, tears, longings- all of it is for him- because we trust in his ability to redeem us in Jesus Christ.