Have you ever read a mystery and thought you had things figured out until you read the end of the story and discovered you were totally and completely wrong? I have. Which is why read the end of the story first, the suspense just about kills me! There are times when I shake my head and scratch my chin as I ponder the seeming mysteries in the Bible. I can see why it’s tempting to take a Gillette razor to certain verses or sections. The ones that have some of the greatest mystery are the verses that tell me to rejoice and to suffer.
I certainly don’t say, “Oh, rejoice!” when I splash boiling water all over myself. And I certainly don’t say, “Oh, Joy!” when I hear of a friend who’s suffering through a sickness or a death of a loved one. But I can’t deny the perplexing feeling I get when I read 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” and James 1:2, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”
Count it joy when I meet trials? Give thanks in all circumstances? Even the yucky ones? Even the ones that I wouldn’t wish on anybody? Surely, not the times when I screw up and cause my own bad circumstances? Surely, I don’t have to be thankful then, right?
“All” doesn’t mean sometimes, it pretty much means what it means: all. No exceptions. No excuses. No exemptions.
The mystery lies in somehow bridging our desire to give thanks with the ugly realness of our lives. Because sometimes it doesn’t feel as though my thanksgiving is real. Sometimes it feels like I’m lying because I’m saying thanks while my feelings are anything but thankful.
The answer to this mystery is found in Lament. Lament is the language of expressing anguish, confusion, disorientation, sorrow, grief, protest, and disappointment within the context of your faith in Christ. Lament bridges the gap between suffering and rejoicing always.
David is called a man after God’s own heart. David shared all of his heart with God. He shared his dismay, mental anguish, and fear uncensored before his faithful God. He knew the power of lament for bridging the distance between his sufferings and his praise.
A good book or story has five essential elements and without one of these elements, we have a flat story. A lament has five important parts: the cry, the confession of trust, the expression of our heart, the petition, and the praise. It’s the lament that gives the story of our lives color and spark. It allows us to ask the hard questions and becomes the place where we can scream our disappointment in how things are turning out.
In the lament, we are able to turn our sorrows into praise because we remember God’s character and his capabilities; we cry out to him because we know he’s our rock, refuge, and safe place. We declare our trust because we remember what he’s done for us in the past. Our pain and anguish get dumped at his feet because he’s the only one who can wade through the muck to reach our heart. We bring our petition for help and assistance because we know that the wind and waves listen to him. And lastly, we bring our praise. We praise him for what he’s done, what he’s doing, and what he’s about to do.
The lament is God’s gift to us so that we have a healthy way to communicate our doubts to him while ensuring our hearts stay close to him. Our lament is an act of faith, a proclamation of hope, and an act of love.
Run hard and fast to him with everything that is within you–the good, the bad, the sorrows, and the pain. It keeps our hearts soft before him and with a soft heart we can know God’s heart. Hide in the shadow of his wings and let your heart pour out your cry, your trust, your doubt, your petition, and your praise.