Learning to Lament: The Invitation

I recently read Mark Vroegop’s book about lament entitled Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy. It gave me a perspective that I really appreciate, and has become a resource that I often recommend to those I counsel. But I’ve been realizing during this season that I really need to learn how to practice lament myself. 

According to Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, the first step of lament is to turn to God. It sounds simple enough, but sometimes this initial turning is the hardest part. Feelings of cynicism or hopelessness can lead us to seek our own solutions. For me, I tend to either plow ahead and try to fix or control the situation, or I just numb my emotions with distractions like food and tv because it feels like too much to think about. We turn to all the wrong places looking for hope and comfort. 

Though I often cry out to God in short bursts, what I really need is to fully turn, sit with Him, and be still. The pain and fear are hard to face, but I know my good Father is inviting me: “Come, you who are weary.” “Seek My face.” “Abide in My love.” “Take refuge in Me.” How foolish it would be for me to ignore that sweet invitation. These are not things I can solve or face on my own, and ignoring or numbing the pain won’t bring about any good fruit. My Father is inviting me to run into His arms, to know His love and mercy, to be shaped by His truth, to find hope in His redemptive work. My heart breaks over the brokenness of the world, and I don’t want to turn away and pretend not to see. Lament is designed to take us on a journey, and the first step is to turn and run into the open arms of our Father, who has entered into our broken world and is redeeming people to Himself.

Playlist: Truth for Anxious Hearts

This month, I’ve had the gift of leading a class at my church about journeying through anxiety. Compiling this playlist has been a balm to my own anxious heart, reminding me to lift up my eyes and behold the Lord in His power and kindness. I pray that these songs lead you to seek refuge in our Good Shepherd, no matter what you’re facing today.

Surrender: The Path Through Suffering

As we walk through this broken world, the experience of suffering is inevitable. It may come from the sin of others, the consequences of our own sin, or simply the reality of living in a fallen world. Whatever the source, suffering invites us to respond and serves as an opportunity to walk intimately with our Savior, who is himself well-acquainted with suffering.

The Lord has been showing me lately that the path He’s given us to walk through our experiences of suffering is one of surrender. A heart of humility and surrender traverses suffering with eyes on Jesus – hope in his eternal purposes and presence, desperate dependence, and faithful obedience. This journey of surrender will vary with each unique circumstance, but there are some common ways that surrender is expressed in the midst of suffering:

  • Trusting God’s sovereignty, especially in terms of timing and provision. We surrender our desired outcome.
  • Receiving His comfort, which requires us to grieve before Him and choose to believe that He is our Good Father.
  • Willingly entering into the hard places by resting in His presence there with us.
  • Acknowledging and repenting of our own sin.
  • Choosing to forgive those who have hurt us. We surrender our desire to defend ourselves and seek revenge, and respond with mercy instead.
  • Allowing God to rewrite the story of our suffering and reorient our hearts toward Him.

Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning;
For I trust in You;
Teach me the way in which I should walk;
For to You I lift up my soul.

– Psalm 143:8, NASB

This is God’s Story

Have you ever struggled with feeling discontent? Missing the good old days, or wondering if and when those good times will ever come for you. Trying to find the meaning and purpose in your life, your work, your relationships. Inevitably, you end up either living in the past or in an imaginary perfect future. You walk through life always waiting for something better, something different, something that will satisfy.

It seems that we continuously hunger for more.

I’ve dealt with discontent at many different times in my life. During one particular season, I wanted so badly to go back to the past, to what was familiar and comfortable. I was out of my element, fearful and alone. I felt completely ill-equipped to do the task set before me, and I desperately wanted to give up — pack up my bags, go home and stay home.

“I don’t want to leave here, I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me either way
And the places I long for the most are the places where I’ve been
They are calling out to me like a long lost friend …
I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt, leaving out what it lacks
‘Cause the future feels so hard and I wanna go back”
— from “Painting Pictures of Egypt” by Sara Groves

But the Lord has been teaching me two important truths that come to bear on my discontent. First, the purpose and goal of our life is to know God and be transformed into His image. The sweetest gift we receive during difficult times is His presence with us to comfort, protect and guide (Psalm 23). When you’re struggling, lean hard into Him, and seek to know Him more through whatever situation you’re in. Enjoy His nearness rather than trying to run from the pain or discomfort. Use this opportunity He’s giving you to draw near and learn to trust only in Him (2 Corinthians 1:3-10).

The second important truth we need to remember is that God is the one writing this story, and it’s all about His character and His glory. “He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). As God’s children, we belong to him… so this life is not about our desires being met, us feeling fulfilled, or our name being made great. We’re called to make the Lord known and exalt Him. So, we should focus on knowing Him and sharing His love and grace with those around us. The story probably won’t look like you thought it would; it probably won’t be what you would’ve planned for yourself. But it will be infinitely better… a story full of God’s presence and work, a story of a life surrendered to Him.

“This cup, this cup
I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here
This challenging reality
Is better than fear or fantasy”
— from “This Cup” by Sara Groves

The “more” that we hunger for won’t be satisfied by anything in this world. Our desires are met in God, and in Him we have all that we need… we lack nothing. Our joy and our worth are not defined by our situation or our accomplishments. In the Lord’s presence is fullness of joy… and that’s something that doesn’t change or fade; He is with us, and He is always good and faithful.