Rooted in Christ

Baggage Welcome

How many times have you heard a pastor or leader invite you in to a service of worship with the words, “Leave all your cares at the door”?

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28) 

How many times have you heard a pastor or leader invite you in to a service of worship with the words, “Leave all your preoccupations, all your problems, all your cares at the door”? 

Perhaps the idea is for you to get away from it all. Put your worries out of your mind to more fully enjoy the presence of God for a brief period. You can pick them up when you leave, like getting back to work after a much-needed vacation from the grind. 

Or it may be that you are being encouraged to singleness of mind and focus. You don’t want worldly cares competing for your attention. You’re here to worship. Give God your full attention. You may even be urged to put away your cell phone. Sure, your digital Bible is on it but so are those distracting pop up notifications and social media temptations. 

We can well appreciate the value and appropriateness of immersing ourselves in the presence of our triune God who meets with us in the assembly of the saints for the worship of His name. But to truly come before God we need to come as we are – sinners, sufferers, sojourners. 

We carry baggage with us as we make our way through this fallen world. It weighs us down. We find the rest from our burden that we crave not by checking it at the door for an hour’s respite but by bringing it to Jesus. He has overcome the world. His grace is sufficient for the day. We live in the knowledge that our struggles are temporary but our hope is eternal. We are burdened and we need Jesus. 

True worship magnifies the splendor of our God, dwarfing whatever our problems may be. As we turn our eyes upon Jesus, the cares of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. 

Why would we check our baggage at the door when we go to meet the God who is able to do more than all we ask or imagine and who invites us to cast our cares upon Him? Rehearsing the gospel in the service of worship and partaking of the means of grace remind us that God is with us and for us. He is able. He cares. He has provided and will provide. He who did not spare His own Son, will He not in Him graciously give us all things? 

No, my friends, let us come as we are. Let us come in our incompetency and inadequacy. Let us come in the messes we have made for ourselves and the messes made for us. Let us come in our doubts and fears. Let us come with shoulders slumping and knees buckling under the burdens of this life, but with heads held high in the assurance that we have audience with the One who extends to us the scepter of His mercy and offers us the sufficiency of His grace. 

The call to leave our cares at the door is well-meaning, but it is not well-taken in God’s word. Our Lord invites us who are weary and heavy-laden to come to Him, to find in Him rest and refreshment and renewal. Perhaps rather than checking our cares at the door, it is more apt to check our cares in as we bring them before our God. 

“O Lord my God, heavenly Father, I am weak but You are mighty. Hold me with Your powerful hand. Keep my feet from slipping. Protect me from despair. Keep my eyes upon You. I pray in the name of Jesus who has bought me and brought me to be Yours.”

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale