How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Ps. 84:1-2
There is no better place to go when you are at the breaking point, no place more suited to address your emotional wounds and your breaking heart, than the House of the Lord. I don’t just mean the building itself, of course, but the Divine Service that is held there weekly by the man who is in the stead of Christ and commanded by Him to administer to you the medicine you need. The cleansing, healing, and nourishing effects of what happens each Sunday to those gathered in the Lord’s House are supernatural and, though invisible to the naked eye, completely transforming to the soul.
In They Will See His Face (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2002), Richard C. Eyer highlights seven parts of the liturgy that speak to the frailty of our human existence and are particularly meaningful for the barren woman. The consistent and dependable flow of liturgical worship weaves Scripture throughout and includes all the promises that seem to be forgotten throughout the week. Our souls, so weak and weary from the crosses we carry and so easily distracted by worldly pursuits, have the opportunity to refocus on Him who is the true source of all help, comfort and joy—Jesus Christ.
At the beginning of the service we have the opportunity to confess those sins that always accompany the soul that feels deprived of something. There’s discontent, jealousy, impatience, even idolatry at times. Guided by the words written in our hymnals we admit that, “We have not loved You with our whole heart,” and we plead with the Lord to, “Forgive us, renew us and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways, to the glory of Your holy name.” That’s right, the sinner remembers, through Christ’s renewal and His guidance, I can find delight in His will, whatever that may turn out to be.
Having confessed our sins and then receiving absolution from our pastor, we seek to enter into God’s presence with what Eyer refers to as the “password,” the Invocation, where we speak the name that was spoken to us on the day of our baptisms, when we were brought into God’s family: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of Holy Spirit. “It is there,” says Eyer, “in the presence of God and lifted out of ourselves by God, that we find healing for all our anxieties, worries, and fears. And if we are willing, they can all be left behind so that we may return to our homes in peace” (p. 35). In God’s presence, under the shadow of His name, there is no need for those anxieties, worries, or fears. They are washed away once again.
The experience of barrenness can be so isolating and can cause one to feel separated from others who might not understand the depths of your pain. A harmful gap can occur between you and those around you who have experienced such effortless fertility. It is in the fellowship of our brothers and sisters in Christ, coming into the presence of God and joining together throughout the service in prayer and song that this gap is bridged and our focus becomes united. “Loneliness cries out for the solitude that comes from a maturing faith. Solitude is found in fellowship with God and the worshiping community, where we are fed the Gospel in Word and Sacraments by God Himself” (p. 46).
Depression is also one of many responses to barrenness, and Eyer helps us see how vital it is that those dealing with depression listen carefully to the Word that is read during the service. “The Old Testament, the Epistle, and the Gospel assure us that in the midst of our difficulties, disappointments, and depression, God is there to do what we cannot. … The importance of hearing the Word of God in times of depression, as well as any other, is that it provides a vision of what is objectively true regardless of how we feel at the moment. We need to hear the Word of hope even if we don’t feel it at the moment. God’s Word to the believer is always a Word of hope” (pg. 70). As opposed to what some well-meaning matron of the congregation might tell you, this “hope” that we trust in is not the hope of conceiving—it’s so much bigger than that. It is the hope that the One already conceived long ago by the Holy Spirit, our Lord Jesus Christ, will make all things new for us after we breathe our last breath on this earth. No more tears, no more longing, no more wishing for something that is not ours—only the acquisition of that heavenly reward which we do not deserve.
I encourage you to read Eyer’s book and learn more about “The Peace of the Lord and the Healing of Grief,” “The Prayers of the Church and Healing of our Sickness,” and “The Creed and the Healing of our Intellect.” So much more comfort and encouragement awaits the barren woman in these pages. She who understands what is truly offered in the Divine Service will cherish the relief that it brings and will be better able to acknowledge Christ as the only One who fully satisfies our wounded hearts and makes us whole again.
I come, oh Savior, to Thy table
For weak and weary is my soul.
Thou Bread of Life alone art able
To satisfy and make me whole.
Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood
Be for my soul the highest good.
Lutheran Service Book #618