All last month we talked about calling and purpose. But what happens when things don’t go as planned? What happens when you get bad news? When everything falls apart?
The Bible gives us plenty of examples; an incredibly powerful way to deal with suffering, called a lament. Lament is a powerful form of worship. It’s both an expression of grief or anguish, and a cry of hope.
I was at a conference several years ago during a particularly difficult time. I was holding on to the promises of God, but I didn’t see anything happening. I was rooming with a good friend, and she had stepped out for a bit. While she was gone I had it out with God. I started praying, and came to a point where I was letting out all of my sadness and frustration. My friend walked in while I was yelling/praying and she turned right back around and left. I asked her later why she left. She said, “I’ve never heard anyone talk to God like that!” We joked about having a bolt of lightning strike at a prayer like that, but I figured, God knows what I’m thinking anyway. He knows my doubts, my fears – He already knows I’m dealing with all this stuff, so why not say it? Why not put it out there and ask Him about it?
“My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” You know who said that? Jesus, on the cross. He was quoting David, Psalm 22 – which says “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1, NIV)
So there it is. If it’s good for Jesus, (and David) I suppose it’s good for me, too. More than one third of the Psalms are laments. And then of course there’s Job, and an entire book called Lamentations. Habakkuk. And more.
So why am I talking about lament on this podcast? I’m supposed to be encouraging. Find your voice, tell your story, change the world and all that. But the truth is we get stuck sometimes. The voice gets stuck at the back of the throat. There’s no strength to push this dream on anymore. The world is too big to change, and the burdens too heavy to carry. But take heart. You weren’t meant to carry these things alone.
This is why I go to lament during those really hard times. It’s such a reminder that I’m not alone. The greatest thing to me about lament is God hears our cries. And He does not condemn us for it.
Grief is a part of life. And it’s a journey that takes time. There is power in naming what has been lost. Lament gives us a place to name our losses. To put words to our pain. Or groaning, or wailing – it’s all there.
As a culture, we’re uncomfortable with suffering. We mean well. But our attempts to alleviate suffering with platitudes can ring shallow, even hurtful. There are times when there truly is nothing to say, except perhaps – I’m here. You are not alone. And that’s what God does. He is with us, and He’s not going to offer up a quote he saw on instagram, he’s not going to change the subject or walk away. Even when he’s silent – he’s still there.
“The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just that time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.”– C.S. Lewis
“Every lament is a prayer; a statement of faith” and “You might think lament is the opposite of praise. It isn’t. Instead, lament is a path to praise as we are led through our brokenness and disappointment. The space between brokenness and God’s mercy is where this song is sung. Think of lament as the transition between pain and promise. It is the path from heartbreak to hope.”– Mark Vroegop
A Pattern for Lament:
- Addressing God
- Review of God’s faithfulness in the past.
- Confession of sin or of innocence
- Expression of trust/praise
Lament is not a denial of faith. It is not a sign of weak faith. Rather, it is a way of reaching out to God. In actually signals we trust God with our deepest questions and our most painful and raw emotions. It is a form of worship. And when someone near us is suffering, we can come and sit beside them. We can join them in the lament. Mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). It is an act of love.
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament by Mark Vroegop
This Too Shall Last – a new podcast and book by KJ Ramsey
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