(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.
Breaking cycles is a lifelong journey full of adventures and misadventures. One cannot condemn oneself when one fails and one cannot take the glory for one’s successes. It’s grace that we are carried through and it’s grace we receive when we need it.
Breaking cycles requires vulnerability. It means we must open our hearts up to new ways of thinking and patterns and take risks at doing something new. We might fail or we might succeed, but we won’t know unless we try.
One of the most challenging aspects of vulnerability is the risk our heart’s take. And vulnerability isn’t weakness, it’s allowing yourself to be known for who you are. It’s inviting someone from the foyer of your heart into the heart of the home, allowing them to see the dishes stacked on the counter and dried food on the table. (Has anyone else had a guest absentmindedly scrape food off your table?)
You see, when I break cycles, I need to practice living a new way. I need to step out from being afraid of failure or repeating what I don’t want to repeat. It requires a certain level of vulnerability coupled with a great deal of bravery.
But it’s dangerous and I’ve been burned. I’ve been like a moth to a flame, drawn in close by the lightness and the brightness of someone’s acceptance only to be seared by their rejection.
I’ll never ever forget the times when I had to bear the brunt of someone’s confession:
It was easy for me to talk to new people and not for them and they were offended.
I cared too much about raising my kids with a consistent set of standards and it made them mad.
I wasn’t grateful enough and caused their depression.
I wasn’t the type of person they were hoping I would be.
These incidences find their place in my memories and make me wonder if breaking cycles is worth it. But for grace.
Last week, we talked about using our spiritual weapons to tear down strongholds and how important it is to remember the power that lives in us because of Christ in us. This week, it’s about grace.
The kind of grace that transforms and gives us the ultimate ability to break cycles, bring peace to painful memories, and overcome failures.
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:8.
This verse reminds us that God is able. He is able when emotions run together and doubt and despair overwhelm us. His grace comes to us because we come boldly to his throne room.
Will you? When your cycles seem to be breaking you instead of you breaking them, will you run to him and admit your need and reach for his grace?
You can break those cycles. You can be a cycle breaker. This is part of your identity in Christ because you are a new creation because of the work on the cross. You don’t have to stay locked in the cage of your habits and patterns; you are liberated to enjoy the abundance that God has for you.
The abundance of things like grace and goodness, kindness and love, strength and steadfastness.
But. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it though. Sometimes we feel weak and broken down by our own failures and by other’s expectations.
Our weary hearts need a soft place to land and we have that in the arms of God receiving grace when we need it.
How does this work?
We catch our minds scattering down a path that leads us away from God. So we stop, we gather our thoughts, toss out the ones that don’t bring honor to Jesus, and then run right to the throne room and ask for grace. And our thoughts change from speculation and what if’s to settling on truth.
Or we know we’re going to see the person who’s words wounded us, so we pray ahead of time and ask God to remind us that he is near and then when we see that person, our spirits pray for grace while we interact and we see God move in us because we’re loving and responding with grace.
Breaking cycles draws us into a transformative relationship with Christ because we practice vulnerability with Him first, sending down deep roots into his love so that we can break those cycles that tear us and our relationships apart. We need not fear vulnerability for it is there that we find what we’re really looking for: strength to break cycles and live our lives as new creations because of Christ.
Spend some time in prayer today laying out the areas that you need to break. Be honest and vulnerable.
Ask for grace to help you break the cycle and then believe that God has met you.