A couple of days after the terrible Boston bombings last week, the Gospel Coalition website posted an interview with a couple called Stephen and Emily McAlpin.
In the early hours of the morning, they awoke to a fierce gun battle between Boston police and the two suspects, taking place right outside their door – with several bullets piercing the walls of their home.
You can read the whole interview here, but it was one particular question and answer that stood out to me, and has stayed in my mind all week.
The interviewer asks “What would you say to those who find themselves in situations of fear?”
And this is their answer:
Pray, worshipfully. In situations of fear, there are really only two ways you can respond: worshiping God or not worshiping God. When you’re fearing for your life, that choice becomes a lot simpler. You strangely crave a meaningful life, if only for a moment. Don’t let that moment pass you by. Remember that Jesus is our only hope for true, meaningful life. Express your faith in him. Enjoy him—who he is and what he does—in that moment. Ask him to do the things that only he does, like gracefully saving sinners for his glory. He is faithful to answer.
If he rescues you in that moment, that’s an amazing thing that will change you and others forever. If he doesn’t rescue you in that moment, at least you’ll have had one of the best, sweetest moments of your entire life as you worshiped him in the threat of evil and death. God can do incredible things through worshipful, Christ-centered prayer.
“In situations of fear, there are really only two ways you can respond: worshiping God or not worshiping God.”
Reading this response pulled me up short. Was this true or did it just sound impressive?
The more I’ve thought about it this week, the more convinced I have become that they are on to something important. This blog post is my (humble) attempt to think it through some more!
How do I respond in times of fear, loss, disappointment, or worry? What do I look to for comfort or solutions? Where does worship come in to this, and how should it?
Well, most of the time my eyes are firmly fixed on myself!
My situation may have already exposed my lack of control, and my powerlessness – otherwise I wouldn’t be feeling the way I do. Yet worship engenders a deliberate decision to raise my eyes from myself to my maker. It requires the conscious dethroning of me, in favour of the rightful king of the universe. It is acknowledgement that his ways are right, just, and good, even in the midst of suffering or danger.
This means that I learn from Job, who in the midst of unfathomable personal tragedy said “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21)
It leads me to praise the Lord for his good and righteous judgements when I don’t understand them or know at that moment how things will work out.! I’m especially challenged by this couple’s immediate reaction in a terrifying moment to worship – and to do so humbly leaving the outcome in God’s hands.
Worship in such a situation goes against our instincts – and I hope I don’t seem like I’m saying that we should be stoic or falsely cheerful despite circumstances; because worship of God has a much wider definition than singing happy songs to him!
Many of the Psalms contain the laments of god-fearing people in difficult times – they don’t hold back their anguish or confusion from God, but neither do they dethrone him in their fear – and this I think is key. In the moment of fear, or disappointment, or worry, they worship-fully entrust themselves to their God.
Our worship is an expression of recognising God’s authority over our situation, and of trusting him through it. We can worship when we are shaking with fear – like this couple, or speechless with grief, or wearied by our circumstances.
I’m ashamed that so often my day to day life is devoid of intentional ‘unscheduled’ worship let alone when the challenges hit.
Worship of course is wider than singing songs in church or praising God in prayer – we can have an attitude of worship in all of life as we respond to the things each day brings our way, with thankfulness, obedience, dependence, and an intention to glorify God in the things we do.
After all, God can see right into our hearts! He knows if a worshipful attitude informs mundane tasks done in his name, or if a cold and self centred attitude drives us to lead the worship at church!
So I’m seeking to expand my definition of worship, and I’m praying that God would grow in me, a worshipful attitude to all of life as I live for God’s glory in the good and the bad days. (Join me in praying also that he will draw near to those affected in the terrible wake of events in Boston.)