The lament arc takes us from despair to release to hope and to praise because it allows for the full expression of emotions this life creates. Our responses to our life experiences can drive us towards God but when we tuck our emotions into a chest in the depths of the attic we rob ourselves of a deeper authenticity with Christ.
As we explore the lost language of lament, we discover a freedom in approaching God to receive the grace he longs to bestow. Our hearts swell with faith, hope and love as we realize that God gave us this language to communicate with him and that he longs to hear our hearts.
We cannot believe that lament is merely a venting session of all the ugly that hides in our heart. Venting the full breadth of our emotions without biblical exhortation results in a gossipy, negative view of our struggles and the people in it.
I’ve been a journal-er for numerous years, and several years ago as I read through an old journal, I cringed at the judgmental, negative, self-righteous way I sounded. I had the full expression of my emotions and crying out to God for help written in black and white, but the confession of trust, the petition for help, and any type of praise was noticeably absent.
My lament felt despairing rather than hopeful.
My penned words made me want to cast that journal in the nearest burn pile.
Instead, it’s tucked into the bookshelf, flat against the back with other books placed in front of it, spines lined up like little soldiers in a row. I didn’t throw it away because it’s my reminder of the importance of learning the biblical lament.
Praise is the final piece in the biblical lament.
We read, “Praise the Lord” or “Bless the Lord” or “I will offer my praise in the assembly” and we wonder how can that be possible when our lives fall apart.
Part of the biblical lament is preaching to your own soul. And in the praising God for his goodness because he’s faithful and kind and true, we minister to our own hearts.
Let’s read David’s word in Psalm 31:19-24
“Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues. Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city. I had said in my alarm, “I am cut off from your sight.” But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help. Love the Lord, all you saints! The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”
David ends his lament with words of praise. He praises God for his abundant goodness and reminds himself to keep fearing the Lord and finding refuge in him.
Do you need this reminder? It’s far too easy to let your circumstances dictate your responses, but what if the next time life tried to melt your heart like wax and cause you to place your fear in the unknowns of “what if”, you tried praise?
One of the Hebrew words for praise is Towdah and it renders as a “confession of thanks and praise for what God is going to do.” We cannot confuse what we wish God to do based on our agenda, but we must base our praise on what God is going to do because of his character.
His character is solid. He doesn’t forsake you because he is faithful. He brings light to your darkness because he is light. He gives good gifts because he is a good Father. He brings you strength because he is full of joy.
Praising God based on his character is what allows our heart to grab hold of courage. Praising God in our lament reminds us that God is God and we are not and that the whole world rests in his hands and on his shoulders. Not ours.
As we surrender control over the outcome of our situations, we turn to the language of biblical lament and we find hope and courage for our weary hearts.
Ending our lament with praise points our hearts to our good, good Father and fills us with hope.
Read Psalm 31 and use it as a model of lament in your current situation. Start with the cry, move into expression of pain, confess your trust, petition God to act on your behalf, and then praise him for what he is able to do.
“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.
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.