Nov 242014 2 Responses

Lament: A Christian Response When Life Doesn’t Make Sense

It’s a picture which displays a deeper tragedy. Protesters setting a vehicle on fire underneath a “Season’s Greetings” sign.

Two days before our nation stops to give thanks for all the blessings God has given us, our nation is divided. The facts of the individual situation are nearly unknown. Time may, or may not tell, what took place last summer in a St. Louis suburb.

But how should a Christian respond? Told to give thanks in all things, what is a rightful response to protesters standing for justice and police officers trying to keep peace?

I think there is a Biblical answer to these strange circumstances. (See: A Dangerous Assumption About God’s Will)

We are not the first generation to struggle with the tension between acknowledging the blessings God has given us and trying to understand the strife and struggle of living in a sin-stained world.

Ironically, it is the often forgotten precursor of Biblical thanksgiving which provides our action step in times of trouble.

The Bible is full of words of thanksgiving. The Biblical writers sing the praises of God recounting his faithfulness to his people. Yet many times throughout Scripture, thanksgiving is often preceded by lament.

Lament is a forgotten form of prayer in which we cry out to God from our grief, pain, sorrow, and confusion. It’s present in the Psalms, the Prophets, and many other sections of Scripture. A whole book of the Bible is called Lamentations.

At its heart, lament is an honest communication with God in which we confess our hurt and question his activity as a sovereign God. It’s a way of prayer which feels unnatural, even inappropriate. If it wasn’t for the Biblical examples of this type of prayer, I would never encourage someone to direct their angry words toward God. (See: It’s Okay to Laugh and Cry)

Yet God is far more comfortable with our emotions than I often am. While the Bible might give several restrictions of how we should talk about God, it never restrains how we can talk to him. As long as our words are an honest reflection of our heart and are directed to God, we are free to speak to him.

He welcomes our words even if he doesn’t fully answer our questions.

He encourages the dialogue, if we will truly allow him to speak.

He listens even when we don’t know all the facts.

So what should a Christian do when the current events of our day bring sorrow to our hearts? Maybe we should tell God how we feel. Maybe we should cry out for the injustice of the world. Maybe we should question what God is doing and remind him of how he has acted in the past. Maybe we should lament. (See: God Controls Our Darkest Days)

We should cry out, asking God why he allows a few people to cause so much chaos.

We should confess that we don’t know what to do to make things right, but we want things to be right.

We should question why God doesn’t make truth more evident.

We should scream that this world is broken and we need God to intervene.

This is the response of a believer. This is the reaction of someone who truly believes God exists, is active in this world, is powerful, can intervene, and desires for his will to be done.

Failing to lament is often a confession of our doubt. When we stay silent before God it reveals that we question his power or love or existence. We see no use is communicating with him. So we debate with our friends, we post on social media, we discuss with our co-workers, but we never have enough faith to actually talk to God about the situation.

This is not the way of a Christian. The way of a believer is to lament to God. (See: How to Pray in the Dark)

It’s interesting, the process of lament always follows the same Biblical pattern. What begins with God’s people screaming at God about the injustices of the world, always ends with God’s people recounting the great faithfulness of God.

Lament always turns to thanksgiving because as we direct our attention toward God, we are reminded of his compassionate love toward us.

As I watch the sorrow in Ferguson unfold live, I pray to God wondering why he allows confusion to run rampant. I ask him why he allows children to suffer and communities to burn. But as I question God, my faith in God grows even stronger. While I do not know the answers to this situation or many others, I do trust him more than I doubt him. And I will believe him even when I don’t understand him.

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