Lament: The Best Place to Be Your Worst Self

by - September 10, 2019

Partly because I'm still embracing gray, and partly because I'm in a season of trial, I discovered lament. It's a facet of Christianity absent from my experience and theology.  But in the midst of trial, it's proving an apt tool to process pain, frustration, anger, hopelessness, confusion, sadness, hope, love, fear, desperation, disillusionment -- all the raw emotions that accompany grief and suffering.

If I'm going to feel all these things anyway, I might as well feel them before the Lord. Exposing my worst self to God is risky and bold and dangerous. But, defiant against my fear, I expose myself nonetheless, because I can't find a safer place to do the ugly, untidy, faltering parts of faith.

That is how lament is an act of faith rather than evidence of no faith. We take the parts of life that don't seem to jive with a loving God directly to the Source and in so doing acknowledge he is, indeed, God. And going to him for answers we don't have but desperately desire implies that he has them, whether he shares them or not.

Faith isn't having it all together when we stand before the Lord. Faith is standing before the Lord as helpless and hopeless save for Him. Faith is admitting we are shockingly unsuited for this life without him. A robust faith not only embraces the lamenting of this fact but requires it and is woefully shallow and incomplete without it.

Anything and everything, big and small, that we need to grieve, wrestle with, and agonize over deserves to be grieved, wrestled and agonized in God's presence. Every single thing we need to say out loud, we should say to God.

I cannot urge you more strongly: say it to God! Even if it's borderline blasphemous and you have to apologize in humility for it later. Bravely and brazenly say it all: every bitter thing, every mean thing, every sad thing, every mangled thing, every angry thing, every unfair and unjust thing, every selfish thing. Bring them all. Empty your inadequate, unfortunate, disgraced and disgraceful self before him.

Job has taught me that God will patiently hear our grievances. Take a minute to take that in. God listens to our laments. He hears us, sees us, and knows us.

Job brought his hard questions, his suicidal thoughts, his protest, his arguments. He persisted, crying out his pain and insisting upon his innocence. God listened so well and remained so silent that Job concludes God is disastrously absent and begins to despair.

Only when Job has exhausted himself against a fearsome God does God speak. He moved from Heaven to Job's heartbreaking circumstances in the vehicle of Job's lament.

God comes to Job precisely when Job has no more fight left in him. God brings his strength to the express time and place where our strength fails. He holds us when we can't hold on anymore.

It is grace: we receive everything when we deserve nothing.

God finally gifts Job with his presence and his conversation. Job learns that God had listened all along, and then God asks more difficult questions than Job's. God's harder questions somehow reassure Job God is capable and competent. Not one of Job's words of lament tumbled out unto a deaf, mute, detached, uncaring, or unable God. They spilled out unto a God who, moved by compassion, comes close and enters our torturous circumstances and offers his intimate presence.

Job courageously voiced his agony and grievances to God and found a hard-won, long-awaited, almost-unrealized, glorious communion.

Job had heard of God with his ears, but now saw God with his eyes much like Jacob wrestled with God and limped away blessed.

So risk it. Speak your grievances to God. Wrestle with him. You will surely lose, but it's better to lose and limp forever than walk without truly knowing God. The choosing to speak openly in complaint and wrestle through lament is a choice to lose your life so you can find it.

The horrifying and harrowing paths that lead us to the end of ourselves can also wondrously lead to the Lord. And lament is the most efficient mode of travel for such treacherous terrain.

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  1. Grateful that God is big enough and merciful enough to embrace all the pain (and even the pouting) we throw at Him. Glad to see a post from you, too. It is indeed "better to lose and limp forever than to walk without truly knowing God."


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