The Necessity of Lament

lament+

 

I don’t like to lament. It seems unspiritual.

Faithful Christians are even tempered and cheerful. They rejoice in the Lord at all times. Without even a hint of discouragement.  Even in difficult circumstances, they are unflappable. Nothing gets them down.

Or at least that’s what I’ve always told myself.

But when life falls apart, I find it almost impossible to rejoice. Instead, I wonder why God is allowing yet another trial into my life. I even doubt God’s love for me.

I feel sad at all I’ve lost and dissatisfied with what I’ve gained in its place. I wonder if life will ever get better. Or if God has abandoned me indefinitely.

I used to respond by actively refocusing my mind, determined to have a positive attitude. But doing so left me even emptier and unhappier than before.

Then I realized that Scripture never mandates that we constantly be upbeat. God wants us to come to Him in truth. And so the Bible doesn’t whitewash the raw emotions of its writers who often cry out to God in anguish, fear and frustration when life ceases to make sense. People like Jeremiah and Job, like Habakkuk and David have all poured out their honest feelings of sadness and disappointment to God.

Jeremiah protests to God, “Why is my pain unceasing, and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail?” (Jer 15: 18)

Job complains, “I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul… then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. I loathe my life.” (Job 7:11, 14-16)

Habakkuk mourns, “Oh Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you, ‘violence!’ And you will not save?” (Hab 1:2)

David laments throughout the Psalms, modelling authenticity with God. In Psalm 13:1-2 he cries, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I can take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” From Psalm 22:1-2, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? Oh my God, I cry by day but you do not answer, and by night but I find no rest.”

The Bible is shockingly honest. And because of that, I can be honest as well. I can both complain and cry, knowing that God can handle anything I say. The Lord wants me to talk to Him, pour out my heart and my thoughts unedited because He knows them already.

This conversation is different than grumbling about Him as the children of Israel did to Moses and to each other. I am talking directly to Him. Telling Him my doubts. Asking Him to help me see.

These saints I quoted all talked directly to God, which was the first step to healing. They named their disappointments and voiced their struggles before Him. They needed to know that God understood them. And that they could be truthful with Him. With no pretense or platitudes. Just raw honesty, acknowledging their pain before God.

This process was essential to navigate their grief. And it is for me as well.

When I don’t acknowledge my pain, my lips may say one thing but my heart says another. I start to wall off my heart so I can conjure up joy.  But those walls make me numb to real emotion, unable to experience either pleasure or pain. My life flat lines as I start existing without really living.

Part of really living is being willing to face sadness. Not wallowing in my pain, refusing to be comforted, but honestly and openly telling God where I am and asking Him to show me truth. Letting Him, the God of all comfort, comfort me. Letting Him, the God of hope, fill me with hope. And letting Him, the man of sorrows acquainted with grief, bear my sorrows for me.

Pouring out my heart to God changes me.

Like my biblical companions, David, Habakkuk, Job and Jeremiah, I can experience true joy only after I have acknowledged my sorrow. And when I do, I find myself in a deeper place with the Lord, who helps me reframe my disappointments and pain.

David ultimately says in those very Psalms, “I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me” (Ps 13:6) and “The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord!” (Ps 22:26)

Habakkuk acknowledges that his hope is in God alone as he declares, “Though the fig tree should not blossom nor fruit be on the trees… yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” (Hab 3: 17, 18)

Job admits after his encounter with God, “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”(Job 42:2)

And Jeremiah sees that trusting our unfailing God changes us as he affirms, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.” (Jer 17:7)

The truth that emerges from our lips after we lament with the Lord is God-infused. We learn to trust God even when we cannot understand our heartaches.

I have seen this demonstrated in my own life again and again. It is most evident in my journals, where I unashamedly express my deepest feelings to God. The joyful praises with prayers of thanksgiving. The bitter disappointments mixed with anger and doubt. I have asked God why He doesn’t love me and I have heard Him whisper through Scripture that He has loved me with an everlasting love.

As I write and pray, I sense His movement in my life. He comforts me. He fills me with hope. He bears my sorrows.

It’s okay to lament. It’s biblical. And when I have the courage to do so, I encounter the Lord Himself.

And what could be sweeter than that?

 

 

photo courtesy of Jonathan Davidar

 

  • September 1, 2015 - 10:11 pm

    notes to self | honey from the rock - […] What does the Lord not already know? […]ReplyCancel

  • September 1, 2015 - 11:08 pm

    Gloria Jartos - Thank you for this article and -Shaken Faith- they were just what I needed !
    I appreciate your writingReplyCancel

    • September 2, 2015 - 9:42 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Gloria! Grateful the Lord used it.ReplyCancel

  • September 2, 2015 - 8:45 am

    aimee - Thanks for this…found you via Desiring God. So true of my soul right now that is needing to lament so badly, yet not.
    And it’s because I don’t want to go deeper with God. It seems that the deeper I go the harder life is and the more I long for heaven.
    Deeper is where He wants us – but it’s so hard.ReplyCancel

    • September 2, 2015 - 9:42 am

      Vaneetha - It is so hard, Aimee. The deeper we go, the more we feel our pain and losses. Sometimes its easier to skate on the surface, not feeling anything. But ultimately going deeper is so so worth it- because it is there that we truly sense God’s presence, His comfort, His love. Praying for you as I write this…ReplyCancel

  • September 2, 2015 - 2:38 pm

    Suzanne - Thank you for telling the truth. Lamenting to Jesus during suffering makes one real. Experiencing Him in those places of deep pain, in time, enables us to share with others from that real place.
    Your words have touched me because they give language to what I have and am experiencing.ReplyCancel

    • September 3, 2015 - 9:45 am

      Vaneetha - I have found lamenting to Jesus has been been life-giving and healing. Glad the Lord used this in your life, Suzanne.ReplyCancel

  • September 2, 2015 - 9:48 pm

    Rhonda - Thank you for your reassuring words. My faith and life has been shaken to the core in the last two years. My husband of 28 years left and is divorcing me, my dad had a massive stroke and my mom is suffering with dementia. I have found myself at the bottom so many times, and often I have cried out to God for relief of my pain. Your message is so reassuring that it is ok to complain to God. It is often during my lowest moments in prayer I hear God’s voice and know that his love is truly unfailing.ReplyCancel

    • September 3, 2015 - 9:47 am

      Vaneetha - I am so sorry, Rhonda. You must feel like you are in the middle of a Category 5 Hurricane, not a mere storm. Praying as I write this that you will find God’s comforting presence today.ReplyCancel

  • September 3, 2015 - 9:34 am

    Rhonda - Thank you Vaneetha for proclaiming truth, this was what I needed to hear. I’ve wondered why I have been so spiritually dry when I have experienced His presence in times past. I haven’t been honest with myself and have become numb. I have surrendered and accepted it. As the popular song says ” we were made not to just survive, we were made to thrive”. God bless you for your open honesty to the rest of us!ReplyCancel

    • September 3, 2015 - 9:50 am

      Vaneetha - So very thankful that the Lord used this to draw you closer to Him, Rhonda. I know how numb I have felt when I refused to be honest with God- and how cleansed I felt coming to Him in truth. We are all in this journey together…ReplyCancel

  • September 3, 2015 - 9:39 am

    Scott - You are a gift from God, He is speaking through you and as a result, friends are being helped and healing is beginning in some, ongoing in others. My connection with Desiring God found you, a ministry that has helped me so much and continues to help, I am so thankful that they shared your post.
    I feel “blah” these days, and I know that’s dangerous, I know it’s lukewarm and that I would be “thrown out” if Christ returned and found me this way. It’s hard to pray, basically the only praying I have been doing is for family members of friends who are in distress and for the friends themselves. I used to pray much, I felt my prayers “flowed” well, things were going good.
    I can’t recall the last time I read my bible and I love that book! I do “run on” what I have read in the past, but I feel like I am stalling-out, fading.
    Church, I am stalled with that, it’s like there’s this wall and I can’t get beyond it to go.
    I feel “drained” and “stuck”, but with all this I know God is close, I can feel Him and I know He is holding me.
    I like how you mention all the Saints like Job, and others. I can relate. The past years have been destruction and hell for me, but I know and trust that God is there and in control. It is the one thing that has saved me, like it was for Job and others.
    So, even though I feel “blah”, there’s still this little light that drives me, that keeps me searching for God and answers and guidance from Him. Your writing is a help, and an answer, from Him.
    Thank you so much.ReplyCancel

    • September 3, 2015 - 10:26 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you for writing, Scott. Please don’t ever forget: There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Roman 8:1). I am praying that as you turn to God and pour out all your pain and fears, confess your dryness and lack of desire for the Word, that He’ll fill you with a sense of His presence. That He will satisfy you in the morning with His unfailing love that you will sing for joy and be glad all your days (Psalm 90:14). He is able to do that.ReplyCancel

  • September 3, 2015 - 2:56 pm

    Caroline - Thank you so very much Vaneetha, for your honesty, openness & insight. It was a stream of living water in an otherwise dry desert of superficial Christian fellowship. I too have had everything removed from me by God, even Himself. I was chronically abused as a child, raped & abused as an adult, suffer from major depression & anxiety disorders, have had a brain tumour removed, developed Hydrocephalus which caused permanent brain damage & chronic severe pain daily, have hypothyroidism, have an immune system overload disorder (major exhaustion), lost 2 jobs & my home and most of who I thought were friends, my Mom died of lung cancer just before Christmas, my dad has been diagnosed with mixed dementia, have just been diagnosed with Complex PTSD, get no-more than 2-4hrs sleep per night – I could go on with many more symptoms & situations. Every day I yearn for the peace & joy of Heaven (death). I cannot believe that God loves me, at least not in the way I understand love. I have almost no “fellowship” with him and have come to think that, what I thought was fellowship was really just psychological. I am genuinely afraid of God but cannot honestly say I love Him anymore. I know no comfort or compassion from Him anymore. I feel like a lump of clay that God uses as He pleases and tosses aside, just like almost all the men I have known. I believe that God is absolute sovereign over all my life and, as God, has the right to do as He pleases. I understand that God created a world that He knew would become hellishly terrorisingly sinful so that He would be able to express both His wrath & His mercy. I do not understand why, when He NEEDS nothing, He went ahead and created this world for His glory. How can glory be worth the terrors of this world? Al He had to do was NOT create it. Would that not have been more sacrificially loving? Yet I cannot give up trying to figure it out. I cannot say I reject Him – “to whom shall we go? He has the words of eternal life”. There is only life after death, not before. He is God and we are nothing. I cannot force myself to love Him anymore and that scares me so very very much. How can I even belong to Him when I feel like this? Maybe I was created as a Judas Iscariot and I have served whatever purpose He had for me? How will I ever know? If this is what God does to those whom He loves, then I greatly fear his anger and so, even though I know he already knows what is in my heart, I cannot bring myself to verbalise it. It feels like the last nail in my coffin. But after reading your article, I think maybe I need to take the risk and try as I have nothing else left. Maybe that’s why God has ordained all this suffering – to destroy my self reliance and cause me to flee to Him & depend on Him alone? I wish he would just take me home.ReplyCancel

    • September 4, 2015 - 12:40 pm

      Vaneetha - Oh Caroline, I was so saddened to read about all you’ve been through. I’m sure at times it seems like too much to bear. But He will bear all these sorrows with you as you run to Him. He is faithful. He will not abandon you. I’m praying for you, that you will sense God’s presence & overwhelming love as you never have before.ReplyCancel

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