A litany of voices dash through my mind whenever I ask for help or clarification. And they sound a little something like this:
“Shouldn’t you know this?”
“Why are you bothering me?”
“That’s a stupid request.”
“You didn’t ask correctly.”
My heart races and the idea cements that I need to figure things out on my own. Asking Google or Alexa seems so much safer because I can ask my question and get my answer without the risk of irritating someone else.
The idea of asking for help seems foreign to many of us. In a self-sufficiency driven culture, the pressure to know all things or at least perceive to know all the things creates a pride that prevents us from asking.
Pride can also disguise itself as insecurity and whispers that we’d just better figure this life out on our own because we’re really not that important to God anyway.
I wrestle with both and it’s good chance you do too.
If we turn to the first few chapters in Genesis, we discover the tendency of human nature towards self-sufficiency. Two human beings in a perfect relationship with God hid from God once sin entered the world. Instead of running to God they ran away. They attempted to solve the problem on their own.
Our tendency is independence and self-sufficiency, but self-sufficiency and independence feeds the pride that prevents us from running to God in times of need. When we screw up, we want to cover up. But God asks us to uncover and run straight to him.
Hebrews 4:12-16 tells us that God sees all things because everything is laid bare before him. It tells us that we have a high priest who intercedes for us and makes a way for us to boldly approach the throne of God to receive the grace we need.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Imagine if we approached all our problems with this mentality. What if, instead of running away from God, we ran toward him crying for help, pouring our hearts out to him, and confessing our trust while asking for what we want?
This is the power of lament: it brings us to a place of peaceful trust because we run towards God instead of away. It gives our heart a place to dump all it’s garbage and allows God to make something beautiful out of it.
We don’t need to have it all figured out before we come to God. We don’t need to be prim and proper or spit and polished. It’s in the coming to him– just as we are– where he refines us and creates beauty out of ashes.
There is verse after verse about the importance of bringing our petitions to God.
Matthew 7:7, Hebrews 4:16, Psalm 107:28-30, Matthew 6:6-8, John 4:10, John 14:13-14, Psalm 121:2, Luke 11:13, John 15:16, James 1:5, 1 Peter 5:7, Phil. 4:6-7, 1 John 1:9, and 1 John 5:14-15.
Using our Psalm 31 as a model we see how David brought his petition before the Lord.
14 But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
17 Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and be silent in the realm of the dead.
18 Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous.
David begins this petition portion of his lament with a redeclaration of his trust in God. But then he goes on to ask for deliverance from his enemies, and that God would save him. He petition God to look towards him and let him not be put to shame.
Doesn’t this echo what’s often hiding in our hearts? That God would do something about our circumstances and that his face would be turned towards us–in the big and little stuff of life?
The more you petition God for help, confess your trust, pour out your heart, and cry for him in the little trials as well as the insurmountable ones in your life, the more your faith, hope, and love grows.
Meditate on Psalm 31.
Practice crying out to God for help, pouring out your heart to him, confessing your trust and petition him.
Being fully honest with the Lord requires practice and it might be tempting to cover up your angst. But lean into the process. You might not have all the answers, but your faith in the One who does will grow.
God has gifted us with the language of lament in order to grow our faith, proclaim hope, and teach us love. Lament is the language of emotion and without lament, our hurtful experiences dictate the way we interact with God, ourselves, and others, causing us to withdraw and to cast blame.
Emotions scare me because they’re so powerful and make me feel so powerless. They take me by surprise and it cripples me. I love good surprises, but I don’t love surprises that rob me of friendships, bring lousy news, and prove that trust can be broken.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to shield my heart from the extremes of emotions, but the thing I’ve realized is that if I fail to experience the emotions of sadness and anger then my joy and love cannot be as rich as they could be.
God doesn’t intend for us to live this life half-way but in fullness and abundance. Exploring our emotions is part of learning to live in the fullness he provides. But they can be frightening because we know the consequences of letting our feelings dictate our lives.
We shout words we can never take back. We slam cupboard doors and resist the temptation to throw dishes. We choose indifference rather than deference.
And over our happiest moments a shroud of sorrow lingers. We tiptoe around the proverbial elephant in the room.
Pain, sorrow, and disappoint is part of this life. And, as Christ-followers, we are not immune to struggles.
One of the best ways to learn to express your heart’s pain is to read the Psalms as if you were the one writing them. When David writes in Psalm 31:9, “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief,” we are given the okay to tell God about our distress.
That thing that makes your eyes weak with sorrow and your heart and your body wracked with grief?
Sit with God in that for a little while and recognize that your distress is affecting your physical body, that it’s making it hard for you to make choices that honor God with your heart and your lips, that the distress you feel overwhelms you.
Take David’s words and make them your own.
David knew distress, he felt forgotten and rejected by so-called friends. People plotted against him and it felt like he was on the losing end of the deal. He wondered when and if things would ever turn around.
I’ve been there, have you? As I page through my Bible, I find evidence of relating to exactly what David experienced. As I repeatedly read through the Psalms, I come to margins with dates that become testimonies of how God was my help. How he did guard my life and rescue me. (Psalm 25:16-22)
Learning to lament by way of reading the Psalms is the best way to learn to express the gamut of emotions created by the human experience and is vital to teach us to give voice to our deepest hurts, our deepest regrets, and our deepest sorrows.
Read Psalm 31:9-14.
Following David’s model, write your own Psalm, keeping in mind your own situation as you give expression to the pain in your heart.
ie: Oh God, I need your mercy, this distress makes me weak and I just want to sleep all the time. I can’t see anything good in my life, it’s all been pointless. Because of slanderous tongues, no one wants to be around me. Those who were my friends have turned their faces away from me and have forgotten me. I’m so lonely; I’ve been tossed aside like a broken dish. It seems as though people are plotting against me and conspiring to damage my reputation. But God I trust in you, because you are my God.
Commit to reading 5 Psalms per day to read through the entire book in 30 days and pay attention to the emotions and trust expressed there.
Trust is one of those things that’s hard to describe and even more difficult to practice. But just like anything else, the more you practice, the easier it becomes until you wondered why it was so hard in the first place.
In lament, we confess our trust because our hearts need the reminder of the truth of God’s character.
Our understanding of God’s character is what’s on trial when we exercise trust in the face of confusing and hurtful circumstances. Our hearts sway with our emotions, but a heart that can find its anchor in the Lord of Hosts is the heart that learns the lament.
Lament is the song our hearts sing as it mourns our circumstances, as it points our hearts to trust in God’s character, and as it expresses all the pain that we never dreamed we would feel. Lament’s song gives voice to our pain and brings hope to our heart.
But what happens when our emotions of despair and depression rage and threaten to steal our peace of mind?
Confession of trust is more than just saying over and over again, “I trust you, God.”
It’s declaring the truth about God while feeling the emotions of despair.
If we look at Psalm 31 as an example we see how David confessed his trust in God and declared truth about God’s character.
He calls God faithful as he commits himself to God.
David rejoices because he knows God sees his affliction and knows the distress of his soul and that God’s steadfast love holds him fast.
And even though enemies surround him, God has set his feet in a broad place, which echoes Psalm 23 where the Psalmist is brought to a spacious place of abundance in the presence of his enemies.
You see, trust is not an absence of fear or doubt, but the expression of confidence that God is bigger than your situation, fears, and sorrow. And not only is he bigger than all that pain, but he is compassionate beyond your wildest imaginations.
Even when it hurts and you don’t understand what God is doing or why he is not acting the way you expect, trust his heart.
On BibleGateway.com, type the word “trust” in the search box.
Then select Psalms from the sidebar where it says “filter by.” (depending on which translation you choose, there should be around 60 from the Psalms)
Choose 3-5 verses that speak to your heart about trust.
Then examine what other action words are paired with trust in each verse.
Example: “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you,” Psalm 9:10.
Know and Seek are the other action words paired with trust in this verse.
As I read this verse, I see that I need to know God’s name, which means I begin to understand the different names of God such as El Roi and El Shaddai.
To seek means to look and to search for him and this is so very important when all we see is dark clouds and sorrow. He will give you eyes to see him as you seek him.
Seeking God and knowing his name grows our trust.
Confidently commit your life to God, knowing that you can rejoice because of who he is and what he’s capable of doing. Anticipate God moving on your behalf and praise him for it.
Put trust in action by getting to know God’s heart of love.