“The cry of pain is our deepest acknowledgement we are not home. We are divided from our own body, our own deepest desires, our dearest relationships. We are separated and long for restoration. It is the cry of pain that initiates the search to ask God “What are you doing?” It is this element of a lament that has the potential to change the heart.” Dan Allendar
It seems as though my heart’s been doing much crying these last couple of weeks. Crying for lost relationships, lost dreams, and lost hopes. This world lies broken in pieces and it reminds me, once again, that this is not home.
As wonderful as life on earth can be, as amazing as Jesus’ good news is, and as constant as God’s presence carries me, this present life is not my final destination. I’m a wayfaring sojourner and every once in a while the pain of this life becomes my stark reminder that my life here is a temporary, albeit, preparatory journey for the life to come.
Living this life in the here and now, with an eye fixed on eternity, requires us to enter into this life fully, including all the joy and pain. The abundant life Jesus was referring to doesn’t mean a pain-free life, but a life lived with abundant faith, hope, and love.
Our life: faith-filled, grace-directed, and always-transforming, grows more and more three-dimensional when we run towards God . . . even if it means running through pain and sorrow to get to him.
God gives us lament as a means to communicate the depths of pain in our hearts. The cry is an integral part of lament that propels us towards hope.
It’s a cry of pain, anger or confusion. It’s a cry that empties all the hurt in our heart at the feet of Jesus and a cry that points us back to faith in him.
Psalm 31 is a great example of Lament. This chapter contains all the elements of lament and gives us a model to follow.
In the first two verses, we read David’s cry. But we don’t picture him stomping his foot like a toddler demanding attention, screaming at the top of his lungs. Instead we see David’s heart’s cry with pain and longing while he declares attributes of God.
David cried for deliverance, rescue, and saving.
What do you need deliverance from? What storm is bearing down on you with no relief in site?
I’ve seen storm clouds brew on the horizon and watched wild winds whip the grass into swirls and then dashed for shelter as lightning blazed and thunder reverberated in my ears.
There are times when God prepares our hearts for the storm that’s heading our way and other times it takes us completely by surprise. But no matter whether you knew ahead of time about the upcoming maelstrom or were completely taken by surprise, the emotional response is still the same. Shock. Hurt. Pain. Questions. Anger.
We can stand defiantly or cower fearfully, but what we must do is cry:
“God, I take refuge in you. Deliver me. You are righteous, don’t let me be put to shame. Lean towards my cry and come to me quickly. I need you, God. Be my rock and my refuge. Save me.”
The lament opens with a cry that states what we need and declares God’s character. It’s in declaring who God is that gives us hope and reassures our heart and puts our faith into practice.
The enemy wants nothing more than to isolate you so that you feel as though you’re alone, that God doesn’t care, and that he doesn’t listen.
By wrapping your cry in the truth of God’s character you insulate your pain-ridden heart against the deceptive wiles of the enemy.
So cry out your hurt to God. Cry out your fears and questions and doubts. But remind yourself that God is righteous, that he is your shelter, and strength. That he is with you, he is constant, that he hears you and longs to rescue you.
Look up Psalm 31
Paraphrase versus 1-2 into a prayer appropriate for your situation.
Be sure and include attributes of God’s character.
(you can use a thesaurus to find other words for refuge, righteousness, rock, and fortress)
Let the cry that’s hidden deep within you gain full expression in your voice as you explore the language of lament.
(Click the player below to hear me read the post)
Have you ever read something in your native language and then asked, “huh”? Learning a new language isn’t limited to foreign languages, but also to learning new skills. When I learned to crochet, I needed to learn what the abbreviations stood for and what it really mean to “dc in ch”. As I learned music, I needed to familiarize myself with music theory. Each learned skill possesses its own language.
Lament is the lost language of honest communication between God and man. It’s the bridge that connects rejoicing and suffering. But we’ve forgotten how to speak it in the light of “give thanks in all circumstances and rejoice always”.
Afflictions like sickness, loneliness, mistreatment, aging, and death affect our daily lives. Disappointment plagues us and makes the soil of the heart ripe for seeds of bitterness. Bitterness then grows into an invasive weed that chokes out all that is good and right and pure in our hearts.
Lament reconciles praise and thanksgiving when our hearts break with suffering.
Lament becomes act of faith, a proclamation of hope, and a refinement of love when done in a biblical manner.
Faith is the trusting of our entire selves to God. We cry, “why, God” because we’re desperate to find meaning in our suffering. Biblical lament leads us to greater faith because it points us back to God and his attributes and character while giving opportunity for our doubts and runaway emotions to experience God’s redemption.
Hope has a name and his name is Jesus. Jesus was neither unemotional or ruled by emotions, but he kept them in the perspective of God’s will. We see this in the account of Lazarus and in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus didn’t deny his emotions; he expressed them and then submitted to God’s will.
Lament becomes the greatest song of hope because it reveals that, despite how we may feel about ourselves or our situation, God is able to do above and beyond anything we can hope for or imagine. Cry out your pain and then express your hope because hope follows suffering according to Romans 5.
Lament refines love. We’re commanded to love one another like we love ourselves, but what if you hate yourself and speak words to yourself that are filled with disgust and condemnation? It’s exhausting to love others when you’re filled with negativity towards yourself.
When we live in community with each other, egos get bruised, hearts wounded, and offenses taken up, but if we don’t deal with the emotions of those situations, our relationships falter.
Lament gives us the freedom to express to God our uncensored feelings about our sufferings. And when we fail to lament we can fall into the trap of slander, gossip, and revenge. Part of the healing of our hearts from heart-wounds involves learning to lament biblically.
When we learn to speak the lost language of lament we experience life, hope, faith, and love.
Emotions are neither good nor bad, but they are indicators of your heart and if acted upon can lead to life-giving choices or life-stealing cycles. God gives us the language of lament as a healthy way of expressing all the feelings this life brings.
The dramatic structure of a piece of literature includes exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement, and a story isn’t complete without each of these elements. Lament follows a similar arc and if we miss a piece, we rob ourselves of authenticity in our relationship with Jesus Christ, and it robs society of solid answers to deal with heartache and suffering.
Biblical lament includes these five elements:
The Cry for Help.
The Expression of all the feels.
The Confession of trust.
The Petition to God to act on our behalf.
The vow and expression of praise.
We’ll cover each of these five components over the next month as we explore expressing emotion in a biblically healthy way.
God provides a healthy way to express the varied emotions we experience that brings faith, hope, and love.
Scripture to ponder:
Click the player to hear me read today’s post:
Normally autumn is full of contrasts: bright blue skies against golden yellow cornfields. Bright red and gold leaves. Emerald grass and brown fields. Skies filled with constellations twinkling on a midnight curtain. But the skies have been pregnant with clouds, heavy and foreboding.
These gray days of marching forward no matter what while shrouded in lack of light have become symbolic to my faith. I believe the sun has risen even though I can’t see or feel it and so I behave in a way that confirms that belief.
I get up and follow my morning routine of teeth brushing, face washing, coffee making, praying and scripture reading. When the clock says 8am, I begin the day’s work and at noon, I break for lunch. All the while, it’s gray, depressing gray, and my spirit wilts and a scowl digs permanent furrows in my brow.
But when the sunshine pierces the gray mass, I rejoice by throwing my arms up, upturn my face, close my eyes and feel the sun warming my bones. Then I tuck the remembrance of what it feels like into my memory when the gray blankets my world once again.
It’s a simple illustration, but living out broken cycles is like wrestling through the sunny and gray days.
Living as #cyclebreakers means that we’ll have days when we feel like we’re conquerors, but we’ll also have days when we will feel imprisoned to old ways, habits, and thoughts.
In those moments, you must remember that you are a conqueror who lives by faith.
Living by faith is an active, continual journey upward and onward. It’s fluid and moving and ebbs and flows. Then it circles back around to readdress an old wound or realign a misguided heart. Yes, we receive Jesus by faith, but then we activate that faith when we live the truth of what we believe.
Will it be hard? Yes.
Will we see the fruit? Maybe.
Will we be forever changed? Absolutely.
You are a bold, fierce cycle-breaker because of the One who reigns in your heart.
Live boldly with activated faith like these examples:
Noah. . . who’s faith led him to spend 120 years building the ark, who teaches us faith in the face of ridicule.
Abraham. . . who left his hometown to go to a land he didn’t know who teaches us faith in the heart of God to lead and guide us.
Moses. . . who confronted Pharaoh, delivered his people, and led an unruly nation to the Promised land who teaches us our strength comes not from us, but from the One who is strength.
Joshua. . . and the Israelites in their unusual military strategy against Jericho who show us how to be obedient even when we don’t understand how things will work out.
Jesus. . . as he went to the cross to break the sin cycle once and for all and who is everything we need.
Believe and act. That’s the key to breaking cycles.
When you fail (because you will) refuse to accept condemnation and self-recrimination. Confess, receive forgiveness (from yourself, too), ask for strength, and move on.
Don’t aim for perfection. Aim for obedience.
These tools of breaking cycles are in your toolkit now. Each one works in conjunction with each other to break cycles, but the one you reach for will depend on what’s happening in your head and heart.
Do your thoughts ride an incessant merry-go-round? Be still.
Is there a stronghold in your way? Use your weapons.
Activating your faith means walking boldly in the face of your fears, enemies, and failures because of who is in you. God’s Holy Spirit will strengthen you, encourage you, and build you up. (Acts 9:31) He spreads a table before you in the presence of your enemies. He leads you to quiet waters and restores your soul.
He is for you and and not against you and equips you with every good gift in order to bring glory to him here in this life.
Remember God equips you for the task. He’s set you free from the bondage of sin and he will enable you to break the patterns that prevent you from running in his freedom.
Listen to this song and ponder it’s meaning.