I am overwhelmed with troubles and my life draws near to death. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like one without strength. I am set apart with the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, who are cut off from your care. – Psalm 88:3-5
When was the last time you had a good lament? Lamenting is not easy to do. In trying to deal with the situations that we find ourselves in we have a tendency to either try to fix them ourselves if possible, or we just sit around and complain about our situation. I think that we have lost the art of lamenting today. Now, I am not talking about complaining. There is a big difference between complaining and lamenting. Complaining is what we do when we feel sorry for ourselves. Lamenting is what we do to God when we do not understand the circumstances we are experiencing. I think we do more complaining than lamenting today.
My children, age 3 and 5, have been known to complain. When they complain they are trying to change what is happening to them or what they are told to do. Their complaining, many times called whining, produces no results, short of irritating me. It is their age and lack of maturity that causes them to whine about their circumstance. The sad reality is that it is my lack of spiritual maturity that keeps me from lamenting to God out of fear that I am complaining (whining) about my circumstances. It wasn’t until recently that I really began to understand the importance of lamenting.
God had ended my participation in a ministry that I was involved in for 4 years without giving me a clear picture of where He would lead me next. I have always been a person who knew what my next step would be. Didn’t God realize that I need to know where I am going in order to get ready for it? Then once He gave me a glimpse of what He had planned, He put a stumbling block in front of me that I could not overcome. I was very discouraged. Why would God call me to this point only to close the door? On the outside I was putting up a good front. I said all the right things. God is in control. He knows what He is doing. I have faith that God will provide. On the inside I was being eaten alive by the doubt and fear that God may not want me to take the path that I thought He wanted for me and my family. I was scared! Did I misunderstand God? Did I do something wrong and now God has turned His back on me? Then I began to actually lament my thoughts to God. My goal was not to change my circumstances, but to share my doubts, fears, and confusion with God. I would wake up every morning and cry out to God that I did not understand why He had brought me this far to only “drop the ball” on me. As with many laments, I have not gotten an answer to my lament. My situation hasn’t really changed. There are still many doubts and fears about the path that I am on, but the point is not to change my circumstances.
Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Jesus doesn’t say come to me and I will take away all of your fears and your troubles and life will be peachy. He says that if we come to him, we will learn from him and find rest for our souls. Just because we rest doesn’t mean our problems go away. It means that Jesus will help us carry those burdens so that so that we will learn the lesson he wants us to learn.
My lamenting has led to hope. Hope is found in the midst of darkness and loss, where God is always present. Our pain must go somewhere, and Jesus asks us to bring it to Him. This doesn’t mean that we have weak faith, it just means that our faith is being tested. Do we trust Jesus enough to bring him our doubts, fears, and confusion? God is big enough to handle our disappointments in Him. He already knows how we are feeling and wants us to verbalize it to Him and give them up to Him. What we will find is that our heart felt lamenting to God actually draws us closer to Him.
John 16:33 – “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”