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.

20 thoughts on “Pain in Your Preaching

  1. Rev Michael H Tolliver says:

    I agree with this topic, its much needed. In 2011 we want to take an extensive look at assisting our members to overcome grief. I see it in their eyes each Sunday and the pain, sorrow and sometimes their display of doubt as they react toward other members. As the year aproaches I’ll be looking for resources in this prayerful endeavor. Praise God!!!
    Pastor Mike

  2. I believe not addressing the pain causes individuals to be stuck in what I like to call a dark pit (not to mention vision pit–since vision manifestation is my passion). The emotional part is real…just like the joy we feel is real. Once a person addresses the realness of the emotion they can truly testify to 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, “We are hard pressed on everyside, but we are not crushed, we are perplexed, but not in despair; perscuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed…whew…have to add a personal “GLORY!” to this post. :)

  3. Brady Williams says:

    Preaching that emphasizes pain or prosperity is simply two sides of the same coin. The Lord Jesus died on the cross to set us free from both of these issues. God design the church to operate as one body includeing the preacher. The preacher is the seer or the eyes of the body, giving clearity to what the body is to focus on.
    For some reason we overlook the guide lines of the new covenant. Which states that neighbor shall not teach neighbor (Jeremiah 31:31-34)and (Hebrews 8:6-13). Also the statement that paul makes in Galatians chapter 3 that says that if you are under a school master, even if you are lord of all, you are in bondage and not worthy to be called an heir.
    I hope this was not too harsh.
    Brady Williams

  4. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    Pastor Williams,

    Thank you for your comments…and no I do not see them as harsh. Please note that I have had my motives and intelligence attacked by some in my work on SoulPreaching.Com. Your comments did neither so I see them as a welcome attempt to further conversation…

    After having said that, I am having a little difficulty understanding your point. Certainly the new testament does not eliminate pain and heartache in this life. I don’t think you mean that but you do say that the cross of Christ sets us free from pain. Please let me know what you mean by that. Today we find ourselves in the time where Satan has been defeated, but he still is working because he knows he does not have much time.

    I also would like to know what you mean by not “teach neighbor” and how that fits into the continue work of the preacher in this time.

    And finally, how can you as a preacher give clarity to the power of the gospel without even addressing the pains that the gospel overcomes?

  5. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    @Seed Planter,

    Yes the incarnation demonstrates that God does not sidestep pain, but actually took residence in the headquarters of it (earth) and ultimately will turn it into a paradise when a new heaven and new earth emerge. (Revelation 21:1)

  6. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    @Rev Tolliver, go head on and put your plans together as you help the people of God in the new year…

  7. Most preaching nowadays is about health and wealth,but the congregation must be told the truth.If it is painful to hear then to bad.No one wants to suffer and be in pain,but some times the truth hurts.I blame most of us preachers for all the things that are going on in GOD’s house,if we stood up and told the truth,then things would come back into order again.We do not serve the people,but we serve the living GOD.Let people say whatever,but GOD will ultimately hold us preachers accountable for what the congregation is feed from the pulpit.

  8. I believe that God has given us an example on earth because we read, write and discuss the ultimate sufferer in The life , death and rising of Jesus Christ. I belivee we must realize that no one minister can address every type of suffering and this is a time when we use the discovered gifts for the season and setting.

  9. Jim, honestly I am not sure all preachers want to teach the truth. I believe we are suppose to serve people while following God’s lead. We often allow people to be the motivating factor instead allowing God to be the motivating factor as we do His will in the roles/gifts granted to us. Unless we preachers/teachers realize that we must deal with the whole man, we are just applying band-aids (which you know will come off when it gets wet, they come off).

    Wyswood, I totally agree.

  10. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    Seed Planter,

    I would love that. If anyone wonders how they can get their picture added to this blog (and a lot more of them) sign up at

    Add your email address and your pic…and then they will show up here…and in a ton more places as well…

  11. Pastor Frederick D. Harris says:

    I agree with the topic in general, that we are to preach the full counsel of God… Which does include the pains of this life; Job give us preaching material on this. I would note that some pains are self inflicted caused by separation from God due to our sins. In any event, when the preacher is in his/her purpose/preparation stage of the message all of this should taken into consideration.

  12. Elder Cox, I certainly appreciate this post. Your commentary on this issue is as honest as it can get. I have been in the ministry for nearly 15 years and far too often I have seen preachers jump right to joy during a funeral. In reality, grieving may last for a while and the healing process will take some time. I have learned to be honest with family members: I cannot tell you when the joy will come, when you will be able to say it is well with your soul, but know that God is with you and God still cares.

    To many preachers want to see the highs and hear the shouts of the congregation so afterwards they can say how they tore it up. For them, dealing with sorrow and pain means a quieter church, and for some “awesome” pontificators, their egos can’t handle that much quietness.

  13. Vernetia Miller says:

    Pain is a reality of life. Everyone wants to be joy-filled but how can one appreciate joy unless they have experienced some sort of pain? As for preachers addressing the topic of pain, perhaps those who do not have not yet learned how to deal with their own natural, emotional, and spiritual pains, thus causing them to avoid the subject or to only touch it enough to move on to the next sermon point. This brings me to wonder how these preachers deal with the subject of pain during pastoral counseling sessions.

  14. Sylvester Warsaw, Jr. says:

    In Matthew 6:34b these words are recorded..”Each day has enough trouble of its own”. Trouble can be translated challenge and also pain. One of the greatest demonstrations of pain recorded in the Bible is found in the Garden of Gethsemane account and what followed according to Matthew 26:38-75. Also, the Cross, where, Jesus, who because He became sin to pay for the sins of humanity, was separated from God the Father because of God’s holiness. It is ludicrous to avoid the reality of pain. We must preach the whole gospel and the reality is God will give us just what we need for the day, not, tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of itself but the day. God never said His mercy would be without pain, but, He said His grace is sufficient. We cheapen our witness wanting God to remove the mountain instead of giving us the strength to climb. God feels pain every time He’s rejected.

  15. Amen to that!! people who are truly”going through” don’t always feel comfortable expressing their pains openly for fear they be accused of being weak in their faith. You can’t just yank someone into joy.

  16. Too My Brother’s In Christ, I’m new to this site and conversation,I agree with most of the points being made on this subject. In my time in the gospel the LORD has shown me that there is Balance in his Word, without the Understanding of Balance you will be OFF balance. The Word of GOD has “NO SHORTS” in other words it “COVERS” everything that we as Human or Children of GOD will go though. When Christ said “IT IS FINISH”.He left nothing for satan to use against us. JESUS had a “HEALTH MINISTRY” he came to “HEAL” the sin soak soul.H-E-A-L-T-H=health & H-E-A-L= heal. All this goes with the LIFE more Abundantly promise and how to attain it. He said My Grace is Sufficent, which is the Strengh of the Word of GOD. WE MUST NEVER PREACH PAST THE HOPE OF GOD.This is where Balance comes in, Joy & Pain are the 2 most extreme emotions that we will experience and evrything in between. The Balance of Kingdom Seeking is what we are doing right now. I close with this Malachi 2:5-7, I focus on 7, For the lips of a priest ought to preserve Knowledge,and from his mouth men should seek instruction-becuse he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty. also Malachi 3:16, Then those who FEARED the Lord talked with each other,and the Lord listened and heard. Let Us Continue to Talk. GOD BLESS, Bro Swinton.

  17. Rev. Daniel Thompson says:

    I love to preach about pain, because I have taste the bitter taste of pain for many years. I am from the streets, I have no mother and lost my dad when I was 14. I have sold drugs, been to jail and hurt some of the most wonderful people God has put in my life. I’m saying that to say this; Throughout all of the dark nights I have suffered through and all of the Lords chastening, it was that very same pain that brought me closer to God. The things I’ve suffered through is what brought me to love, fear, respect and praise God even more. If God could save someone like me, there is hope for us all!

  18. The reality is, there are things in life that are quite painful to deal with at times. The Shepherds role is to meet all of the needs of the sheep. Two scriptures come to mind when I think about painful issues that occur in life.
    Rom. 12:15 “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”
    Matt. 5:4 “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

    In the midst of our pain, let us not forget about the Comforter (Holy Spirit).
    We have God’s Word that He will comfort us in our hour of need. What we don’t want to see happen is we find ourselves focusing more on the “hurt” than on the One who is able to heal the hurt and provide comfort for our total being. Let us remain compassionate when others are going through…

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