Pain in Your Preaching

Kirk Byron Jones in his book Jazz of Preaching speaks of Black preaching giving voice to hurt as well as it gives voice to joy. On page 114 he writes:

Blues preaching gives full voice to the painful places of life. It is as honest about sorrow as it is about joy…In lament, sorrow is not washed away before it is acknowledged as sorrow. Lament is not afraid to look at the blood and the dirt, and name it what it is.

There is a place for pain in the preaching moment if we are to speak to the real world. Too often we “wash away” pain before fully describing the pain we are attempting to wash away. Sometimes we are especially prone to do this during times of hurt. During national or local crisis, and sometimes during personal crisis. We quickly jump to “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5), before we have allowed ourselves to experience the night which will lesson the power of the joy and the morning.

Some Preaching Does Not Address Real World

There are some ramifications for our preaching. When we jump to quickly to the joy, we can reduce the reality of pain in this life. Our sermons can become an alternate reality where good always wins down here and evil never makes any progress against God’s people. We can end up preaching about guaranteed financial benefits for serving God when our congregation provides many examples of this not being the case. We can end up preaching about guaranteed healing from diseases when the funerals you had to officiate last month demonstrate that is not true.

Another problem with not addressing pain is that it limits our preaching topics when we don’t confront the pain. Sermon planning will cause you to address many issues in your congregation. Pain and hurt is one of them. Sometimes we act as though pain stops after the funeral. Maybe the divorce happened, but after a few weeks we act as though the break is not still painful. However, we all have people in our congregation who are living in pain. They come to church and too often we give them palliative care for a moment rather than applying the balm in Gilliad to there real issues. We too often speak of pain, spend a few moments discussing it, and then add a whoop where we minimize the pain. But if you want to address real needs. we must confront pain.

Not Giving Pain Proper Due Limits Power of God

Ultimately, we limit the power of Grace to overcome when we don’t confront real pain. Some of us may be fearful that grace cannot overcome the pain. Certainly there are instances of evil seeming to overcome in this life. But we as Christians believe that “where sin abounds grace did much more abound.” (Romans 5:20). That means that where we find sin, we need to look closer to find the grace of God healing and reconciling. Where we find hurt, don’t throw a band aid on it, look deeper to find the grace of God there seeking to help us live in this world of pain and heartache. Where we find hurt, God is there, yes, and sometimes we may even have to admit we are having a hard time finding God, but we go on by faith.

Finally, preaching that does not confront pain will ultimately make us irrelevant. As Jones notes, if we are honest about pain, then we will gain the ability to be honest about the God that overcomes that pain.

Sherman Haywood Cox II

Vanderbilt Trained Minister (MDiv), Univ. of Alabama Trained Software Developer (MS), Author, Blogger (, Husband, Son, Brother, Father.

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