Once when leading devotions for our team at work, I asked them in line with Psalm 88 (which ends with, “darkness is my closest friend”), something like if a Christian could ever identify with such a thought, and no one raised their hands in affirmation. And the popular worship songs of today seem to exclude the likes of me, who readily admits to such struggle as not only isolated, but ongoing, certainly interspersed with praise and the Lord’s help in overcoming such.
As in the tradition of the church we need to regularly read the psalms along with the rest of scripture. In our church every week, along with an Old Testament reading (historical reading), New Testament reading (reading from a letter) and Gospel reading (the last and climax of all from Matthew, Mark, Luke or John), we have a responsive reading from a Psalm. And I have been reading the Psalms through every month.
But I sadly dare say that perhaps contemporary worship today, while it has much good, fails to some extent to reflect a worship which comes before God with much struggle such as we read over and over again in the psalms as well as in the rest of scripture, I would argue the New Testament not excluded. And I believe this is surely to our great loss. Although at the same time, I am appreciative of people who seem to live freely of the struggles which plague me, not that people around me pick that up, particularly if I’m in conversation with them, which I often find uplifting.
Michael Card has an excellent music album which is a brilliant exception to this rule, well worth your listen: The Hidden Face of God.
I might want to suggest that this problem is part of an aversion to scripture in general in what is called pop theology, or how the faith is taught (or I might want to say, not taught) to people today in the churches. We don’t want to face the hard things in scripture, or we might even want to ignore them or even explain them away. One of the strengths I’ve noticed in a great, relatively new resource, Our Daily Bread for Kids, includes hard things normally excluded in material for children, doing so in a wise, careful way. I think we should end up seeing God, not reduced at all in greatness and goodness, which I think is an unfounded fear found in Christians considering scripture today. I would guess that much of the time this is of course a mistaken reduction of God to the likes of us, the God who is love.
This all may be a case of a triumphalism which wants to press into the present what will only be true in the future. At the same time no one really lives there, and people who advocate such spirituality will for the most part acknowledge that, I think. We live in the tension of the “already/not yet.” And in that tension we find God to be gloriously great and gloriously good in and through Jesus.