Learning to lament well is a skill we all need as we walk through the effects of COVID and the economic shutdown and then recovery of our society. We all feel a level of grief, and possibly fear or anger or devastation.
While those feelings are not only felt during this time in history, they may be more prevalent over the next few weeks. And most of us don’t know what to do with those feelings.
Because as a Christian, we hear we can lament but are warned not to complain or grumble. We don’t really know the difference and so we just keep our mouth closed. Or feel guilty because we opened it in the wrong way.
But God wants more for us than just stuffing our feelings. Let’s face it. Life is hard. You’ve lost some significant things, and you feel the pain of the craziness of the world and need a way to process.
What does God tell us to do?
The Bible leaves a lot of room for our honest emotions. In fact, there is a whole book called Lamentations about the destruction of Jerusalem and the pain and abandonment felt.
We also see in Psalms, David, after struggling through major hardships and unfair circumstances, telling God some hard truths of his emotions. You don’t have to read very long to hear him ask God to destroy the men after him, to vindicate the unjust circumstances, to oppress those who are against him.
Words most of us would be horrified to utter aloud! But we see the characters in the Bible utter them all the time. Obviously God is telling us through his Word he wants us to utter them aloud to him. These honest statements are usually called laments.
What’s the difference between complaining and lamenting
This is something we naturally do. It’s when we see the life in front of us and are dissatisfied, hurt, upset, and basically discontent. We let these feelings merge into self-pity, anger, and disgust toward life and possibly even God. Confiding in others who agree with and will affirm our suffering and will help stir the flame of discontentment and anger in your soul happens as we complain. The way you are making yourself feel better is by stating your feelings to sympathetic people for the purpose of feeling heard and validated.
This is similar in that we feel a discontentment, a hurt, a dissatisfaction with life. We have suffered, and it is unfair. But we aren’t taking that hurt to others who will jump on “our side”. When we lament,, we bring that hurt, that dissatisfaction, that unfairness to God and trust Him with it. We hold nothing back. We tell it all to God and then find our hope in him.
What did this look like in Biblical times
Remember Lamentations? Well, life was pretty horrible through this book. In fact, in Lamentations 3:20, the author states
“I continually remember them (the affliction, etc…) and have become depressed.”
He is honestly telling God was he is feeling, where he is disappointed, and his emotional state at this moment.
But he follows up in Lamentations 3:21 with:
Yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord’s faithful love…we do not perish, for his mercies never end.
This lament is an honest confession to God followed by a truth of who God is and a statement to trust God regardless of the circumstances.
David is another great example. If you’ve ever studied his life, you know he didn’t have it easy. For several years of his life before he became king, he lived in caves, feared for his life, had false accusations thrown his way, was betrayed by friends, and basically just lived a life where he did very little wrong but suffered greatly.
We see the great turmoil in his soul through statements in the Psalms such as:
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? ….How long will I store up anxious concerns within me, agony in my mind everyday? How long will my enemy dominate me?”
Can you just hear the angst in his soul as he honestly lays his hurts, emotions, and anger before the Lord?
But, just like in Lamentations, he didn’t stop with just the honest confession to God of his struggle.
David follows up with statements like
“the Lord will hear when I call to him.” “you alone, Lord, make me live in safety” “But I have trusted in your faithful love” “ I will sing to the Lord” “ I call on you because you will answer me…I will be satisfied by your presence”.
David ends every single one of his laments with a phrase similar to “nevertheless I will trust in you Lord”.
The Importance of Lamenting
I’m sure David or Jeremiah didn’t FEEL satisfied by God’s presence in the heat of the moment. But they trusted God anyway. They verbally stated their trust in God regardless of what they felt. This trust allows you to give your struggle to God and let Him heal you. It is vital we stop stuffing our feelings and emotions and learn to lament and trust God instead.
So what can we learn about lamenting well in a season of loss of uncertainty.
There are a few important keys to lamenting the way God shows us in his Word he would like us to. If you find yourself wishing to lament instead of complain, here are 3 steps to take.
3 steps to Lamenting
Tell God what you are feeling, experiencing and believing. He already knows it all anyway so might as well just say it aloud to him! Plus, going into the presence of the holy God is sure to change you in ways standing in your own presence and thinking your own thoughts never will. So simply tell God what is going on in your soul.
Look through the promises of God in scripture.
Ask yourself which promise of God trumps or speaks to the emotion or hurt you are feeling and then receive that promise from God. God as a provider? God’s presence? His trustworthiness? Which promise is in direct contrast to what you are feeling? Google “promises of God” if you want to look through lists of promises to find one that will directly speak to you from scripture.
Claim that promise for yourself in a way that worships God.
Look at David’s example. Regardless of the facts in front of him, he trusted in God more than he trusted in his emotions or situation. Pray that promise of God over your feelings and accept it from God.
Don’t hide your emotions, fears, hurts, and anger from God. He wants you to bring them to him!! And when you bring them to God, don’t walk away just complaining to God. Take the time to follow in the Biblical character’s footsteps, confess it all to God, and then praise God in the midst of your pain. He will meet you in that moment and sustain you. He’s begging you to lament to him. Promise.
(P.S. for a handout for the steps to lamenting well, simply enter in your info below)
(P.P.S. If you want to study more about the character of David to help you in this journey, this post will help you get started)