The Third Option - Lament
Over the years, I’ve realized our world tends to send us two messages when life does not look like we hoped or expected.
Response 1: Feel your frustration, despair, anger, sadness for as short a time as possible then push forward. Move towards solutions. This narrative may sound something like, “Well, I can’t change it, so I’ll just keep going”.
Response 2: Set up camp in our sadness and anger. We become people who expect the worst and may even have a reputation for being negative.
I’m slowly learning a third response.
The third response started with a question someone asked me in 2015.
“Do you think God is afraid of your questions?”
My knee jerk reaction is to say, “no,” but as I wrestled with the question, I learned I may not think He fears my questions, but somewhere along the way I started believing God didn’t like my questions.
Our doubts, insecurities, or disillusionment do not anger or scare God.
The third response is the power of lament. Over and over in the Bible, there are stories of the “heroes” of the Bible lamenting—there’s even a whole book called Lamentations.
As you read Psalms, it is filled with honest lamenting from David to God. David says things like:
God why do you turn your back on me (Psalm 10:1)
How long God? (Psalm 6:3)
I’m alone (Psalm 38:9-11)
Just to name a few. David is not painting a pretty picture of his life. He is crying out to God in frustration, hurt, and anger. He doesn’t hold back. Sometimes I read Psalms and cringe a little bit at the honesty. I think it’s because I’m a little jealous of David’s ability to lay it all out before God. David is grieving. And God is holding space for David’s grief.
In many of the Psalms, David can transition from being so angry and crying out to ending with calling out the truth of God’s character in praise. (Psalm 10:16-18; Psalm 6:8-10)
Now, I will not claim to know what is in David’s heart when he is writing. But I don’t think he always feels better at the end of each passage. I believe he is reminding himself what is true about God. Even when it feels like God has left or doesn’t care or isn’t with us. David reminds himself (and us) the true nature of God. He is still allowed to feel all the things, but he is leaning on truth and history (his personal experience of God) to not stay in his despair and anger forever.
I believe if you and I sat across the table from each other and you shared PIECES OF your story, I would feel angry, sad, and disillusioned for you. My hope and prayer for you is that instead of living a life that says:
Shove it down and keep pushing forward...
Or, stay in your sadness; wear it as a weapon to not be hurt or disappointed again... … That you would find a third way. An honest lament before God.
Lament. Ask your hard questions that have no good answers.
I’ll go first. When I lost my brother in 2014, I took response number one. I pulled myself up and pushed forward.
Until 2015. Then I finally gave God my real questions. “Are you really a good Father? Because this is not good. Luke being gone is not good.” I started there and I stayed there for a while with God. I still have days that I return to these questions and these words—I probably always will.
Then slowly, it started to turn to a calling back to who God has been in my life. “I’ve known your kindness and Your love; I remember it. But this story does not feel like You are kind. Remind me of your kindness.”
God didn’t bully me out of fury and grief. He did not remove Himself from me. I still feel Luke’s absence. But I began to see God’s kindness again. I’ve found it in a girl named Gina, who never knew my brother but sends me flowers or a note on Luke’s birthday and anniversary. Every single year. God has used Gina to remind me that I matter to Him, and the story is not finished.
If I kept pushing down my questions and anger, it eventually would reach a tipping point of hurting others. If I stayed in my anger, my life today would be isolated and lonely.
The greatest hope I cling to in this specific lament is that God chased after Luke—He chased after my brother by sending Jesus to conquer death, and I cling tightly to the promise that Luke is whole and healed and I will see him again. Because God is indeed a good Father.
Lament, friend. God is not angered by or scared of your questions.