“Lamentation is a powerful, and meaningful, form of worship because it places our love for God above even the worst of circumstances in our life… God does not ask us to deny the existence of our suffering. He does want us to collect it, stand in those things and make Him an offering. The Holy Spirit, our Comforter, helps us to do this: He aligns Himself with our will and says, ‘I will help you to will to worship God.’ The glory of the majesty of God is that He helps us will and do.” – Graham Cooke
My whole life I wanted so much to be a “good” Christian. I never wanted to be someone who doubted God, even when times were hard. I would recall verses like “Do everything without grumbling or complaining…” (Phil 2:14), or “Consider it pure joy my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1:2), or “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope…” (Romans 5:3) Obviously there is powerful truth in all those verses (especially when read in context!) but for this type “A” people-pleaser, they also reinforced an insidious misinterpretation of what trusting God looks like – that trusting God meant denying my circumstances and how I felt about them. Somewhere along the way, I missed the power and blessing of an authentic lament. When we lament we are fully honest and vulnerable with our Father, holding nothing back, sharing our heart with the One who loves us like no other. That truth and vulnerability can only serve to bring us closer to him!
But so often, when we are suffering, grieving, struggling, it can be hard to believe that God is close to us. David laments in Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Even Christ on the cross, in his humanity, cries out the same lament. But the Bible promises, Old Testament and New, (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5) that God will never leave us or forsake us. Not only does he hear our laments, he WANTS to hear them. As omniscient God, he knows our anguish already, but as loving Father, he longs for us to choose to trust Him with it. How can we expect to find him in the midst of our trials if we don’t acknowledge that we have them? Where is the sacrifice of praise if we pretend we are already “ok”? Christ models this for us so beautifully in the days leading up to the cross. In the garden of Gethsemane, he shows us true lament – baring his soul, while demonstrating respect and submission at the same time. He tells the disciples that his “soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38, Mark 14:34). This is the state of his heart and mind when he goes to the Father in prayer. Scripture tells us he falls with his face to the ground as he prays, begging His Father to save him from what lies ahead.
First he says, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me”. He is honest with his Father that he doesn’t want to go through with it and asks to be let off the hook. When the deliverance he asks for doesn’t come, his prayer shifts to one of submission: “My Father, if it is NOT possible, for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Think of what it cost for him to say that, knowing what was to come! I find it interesting that Scripture tells us that he prayed a third time, “saying the same thing”… He repeated that difficult prayer, perhaps willing himself to be obedient, despite the tug of his human heart to choose differently. The anguish, the LAMENT, of that was so great that his sweat fell like drops of blood. It is in that act of vulnerability and submission that Abba meets him, and sends an angel to strengthen him. What could be perceived as a crisis of faith is actually an important moment of intimacy between a son and his Father. And as Hebrews 5:8 teaches us, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered”. That lament makes room for God to release his power, enabling Jesus to CHOOSE the cross. In contrast, the disciples, unable to pray in their fear and grief and confusion, fell asleep, and were left “exhausted from sorrow” (Luke 22:45).
Learning to trust God with the desires, fears, and sorrows of my heart is an ongoing challenge for me. So often it feels safer to keep those things to myself, or to ignore them altogether. It is my prayer in those times that I will not choose to shut down in “sleep” as the disciples did, keeping me exhausted in my sorrow. But that, instead, I will take heart from Christ’s example, and bring my laments before the Lord; making way for Him to meet me in power and glory, showing me I am fully loved and fully known.
Contributed by Lisa Fogg, a Trinity worship leader