The Importance of Worship in Times of Despair

Worship8This last year has left me weary. The constant news of violence against my people has been both overwhelming and discouraging, the latter because I honestly don’t know when relief will come. Our nation has built it’s wealth and prominence in the world by victimizing black and brown people – something that will not be easily overcome, though I remain hopeful as smaller scale victories are won through protest and policy change everyday! I know that our present suffering will not endure forever, mostly because empires, no matter how powerful last forever. And I also know that the fullness of the Kingdom of God, when He redeems those who have been oppressed, is coming! But when that all will be, I just don’t know.

As aforementioned, I remain hopeful. Hopeful that change will come. But it is not the kind of false optimism that believes everything will work itself out in the end – that we as a people will eventually progress to a more peaceful, harmonious state of being. I have no time for such nonsense! No, my hope is anchored in what I know Christ will do as a result of what He already did on the cross. His blood, shed for the sins of all of humanity – past, present, and future – reconciles us back to God, each other, as well as the earth and land around us. And reconciliation is inseparable from justice! God will bring about justice for those who have been chained and shackled by governments and systems of this world that exploit people for power and profit. And despite how much leaders in our nation clothe themselves in American Christianity, there will come a time when those who have been on the delivering end of injustice will be brought to account.

For me, hope goes hand in hand with despair. I despair and agonize over the current situation as I hope for a redeemed, victorious future. As Dr. Cornel West puts it in his book Hope on a Tightrope, “Those of us who truly hope, make despair a constant companion whom we outwrestle everyday owing to our commitment to justice, love, and hope. It is impossible to look honestly at our catastrophic conditions and not have some despair – it is a healthy sign of how deeply we care.”

Hope and despair! You can probably now understand why I’ve been so weary. Two seemingly conflicting dispositions that can either propel you forward or force you to turn inward and as an ambivert, I straddle both pretty well. Reach out or shut down. Engage or withdraw. Fight or retreat. Worship or not.

Ironically, its the worship piece that I have struggled with the most and which I have had energy for the least. And it is not because of disbelief or even discouragement, because remember I know that Jesus will transform this! It is because after expending myself in so many ways throughout the day to stand and fight for justice, at the end of the day I just want to tap out.

However, this is really where our quest for reconciliation and redemption must start! When we begin with worship, God Himself strengthens our hearts and minds when we have grown weary with despair. Additionally, magnifying God above and higher than structural racism and capitalism gives us the perspective and strategy that we need to prophetically counter injustice. When we see God clothed in all of His glory, empires start to look a little smaller.

So once again, I make a commitment to God, to myself, and to those around me to begin with worship. Worship because I have to if I want to ensure that despair doesn’t turn into despondency – hope deferred makes the heart go weak.’ Worship because I want God to take His place and restore everything that has been lost through conquest and war. Worship because the race for justice that we are running is a long distance marathon, not a sprint – I need endurance for the long haul!

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