May 12, 2016 Aaron Ross

I’m Asking you Jesus, Show Yourself

What are we as the church doing? We are missing the struggle, the pain, the hurt of those around us. We keep saying “come to my church, you’ll find Jesus”. We keep writing songs on how great God is, and the world keeps writing songs talking about their pain. Could it be that we are hindering people from finding Christ because we are not hurting along side of them (or showing the hurt that we have at least)?

I was supposed to be writing a paper. I set a morning and afternoon aside to finish working on a section of my Ph.D. on a theology of faith. I did everything right. I drove to a city that was not my own, just a little over an hour from my house so I would not be tempted to go home for a “short break”. I turned my phone off, turned off notifications on my computer. Brought my headphones that would let me drown out the noise of the burr grinders and milk steaming. Then I turned on a playlist of worship music I would be playing later that night at a church I often worship with. A few rotations of that playlist and a lot of “praise you Jesus!” later, I decided it was time to turn on some other music to help me concentrate. This is where I went horribly wrong.

Not sure why, but I decided to turn on The 1975. Not for any particular reason, I just had this desire for some British Pop-Rock. Maybe it was the eclectic décor in the coffee shop, but it just felt right. I turned on their recently released album, “I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it” and kept typing away. Then it happened. Track 6. My interest was immediately piqued when I heard what sounded like a crowd mic at a charismatic / gospel church. As my attention to my work was shattered, I began focusing on the words to that song, “If I believe You”. After listening to it quite a few times through on repeat, and examining the lyrics, I became completely torn.

At this juncture, I think it would be helpful to stop, listen to the song, and read through some of the lyrics:

I’ve got a God shaped hole that’s infected
And I’m petrified of being alone now
It’s pathetic, I know

And I tossed and I turn in my bed
It’s just like I Lost my head

And if I believe you
Will that make it stop?
If I told you I need you
Is that what you want?
And I’m broken and bleeding
And begging for help
And I’m asking you Jesus, show yourself
And I had a revelation
I’ll be your child if you insist
I mean if it was you that made my body
You probably shouldn’t have made me atheist

And if I believe you
Will that make it stop?
If I told you I need you
Is that what you want?
And I’m broken and bleeding
And begging for help
And I’m asking you Jesus, show yourself

If I’m lost then how can I find myself?

And I’m asking you Jesus, show yourself

As one who teaches theology, my usual, first response would be to dissect and understand the theological truth in a song / prose / book etc. . . Not this time. This time I am just hurt. I am hurt because I had just turned off a bunch of worship music by my “tribe”, Christian worship leaders praising God, saying “thank you” and pouring out all sorts of praises to God, to only turn on a song that seems more real to me than most Christian worship songs I have heard, played, and sang.

What are we as the church doing? We are missing the struggle, the pain, the hurt of those around us. We keep saying “come to my church, you’ll find Jesus”. We keep writing songs on how great God is, and the world keeps writing songs talking about their pain. It is funny how we often think that people just need to cry out to Jesus and it fixes everything while we do not share in the pain or struggle of their life. How is it that someone who is not a follower of Christ is able to make a song that is more honest to where a lot of people are than we can in the church? Are we hindering people from finding Christ because we are not hurting along side of them (or showing the hurt that we have at least)?

If you haven’t noticed, this is nothing really new, but something that is finally coming into view thanks to a few people. Bono and Eugene Peterson (translator of the Message Bible) recently had a conversation recorded by Fuller Seminary (which can be found here). The topic of this interview? How honest, raw, painful, loud, happy, sad, contemplative, and more the Psalms are. What do you think the pair’s reaction to the Church’s music and art is compared to the Psalms?

Well, simply put, it seems “dishonest”.

It is time. The church needs to create honest music. We need to deal with the skeleton’s in our closest: the pain, sin, doubt, fear, anger, etc. . . that we have in our Christian walks. It is normal. David (and others) is not chastised for his honesty, pain, doubt, fear or anger. In fact his words became “immortalized” and put within the canon of Scripture as the inspired word of God!

Maybe, just maybe, if we become more honest as the church, then those who are curious, those who want to find God will be more open to hearing what we have to say. Maybe, just maybe, we can start to show the world that we are no different than it in terms of our pain and struggling. We are only different in that we have found and embodied the love of the One who created us, died for us, lived for us, and desires to be with us. Maybe Christ is trying to show up in the lives of those around us, and we are actually hindering those from finding Him, because we have failed to be honest.

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About the Author

Aaron Ross Aaron Ross is Assistant Professor of Theology at Southeastern University and a PhD student at the University of Birmingham (UK). He is also the senior editor of ECCLESIAM. In his spare time, Aaron enjoys running and being an avid movie watcher.
  • Fantastic comments. I have taught and preached this for years now. We need return to the Biblical (Spirit-inspired) voices of despair, desperation, vindication, hurt, and abandonment. How can we think to hear the cry of dereliction from the cross if we never cry such ourselves with those also facing abandonment? Let our cry be the cry of the Spirit with groans of inexpressible words…that is the cry of the Son and the cry of the Father.