God gave you your emotions. He is not surprised by them, nor is he annoyed by them. He went to great lengths to restore relationship so that you could enjoy intimacy with him. He can handle your feelings. Bring them to him and, allow him to comfort you. Like a loving father, over time he will give you a joyful, hopeful, peaceful perspective. But it begins with being authentic. He draws near to the broken-hearted. Get real.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Some have called lament a lost language (Michael Card, Sacred Sorrow). In a culture where we equate happiness to feeling nice and comfortable, there is not a lot of encouragement to express our painful feelings to God or to one another. People feel uncomfortable with the anguish of others, not knowing what to say, being unable to fix it…so they tend to pull away from people in pain. To some, it feels like a lack of faith to say anything that is not immediately positive, joyful or hopeful.
Think about a relationship with another person, where every time you speak with them, they are “just fine” no matter what has happened. They lose their job, their spouse is diagnosed with a serious illness, their child runs away…and all they say is that they are “fine.” Now, a few rare individuals may actually be fine no matter what happens, but most people need others from time to time…a shoulder to cry on, a friend to lean on. If all someone ever says is that they are fine, how can you support them? How can you feel close to them? When you have a struggle, will you turn to that person or will you fear they won’t understand because they have never been anything but fine? The point is, without honesty, there is no intimacy. As we really open up with others, we experience closeness. It is the same with God.
Much of Scripture is lamentation. A large percentage of the Psalms is the writer crying out to God, wondering out loud, “how long will I have to suffer at the hands of my enemies, why do the wicked prosper, it hurts that I am wrongly accused, etc.” Remember, these Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit who also recorded and preserved them. Why? I believe to show us a picture of emotional vulnerability and authenticity before God. God wants us to be real with him. If we think about it, he already knows how we really feel anyway, so we have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by being authentic with him. Of course, I am not talking about cursing God. I am talking about coming before him and laying everything out. We draw closer to God when we do this. We also feel less alone, and the Holy Spirit can speak to us to heal our brokenness. David, Job and even Jesus lamented at times:
“Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, For I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Ps. 43:5
Here David acknowledges and expresses the feelings, and chooses to hope in God. He testifies to his belief that he will praise God for his deliverance when the trial is over.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Ps. 147:3
This speaks to God’s heart of compassion to the broken and wounded. He is eager to comfort and heal us when we lay our brokenness before him.
“Then Job opened his mouth and curse the day of his birth. 2) He said:
3)’May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, “A boy is born!”’ 3:1-3
So, Job openly lamented that he was even born, death to the suffering he endured.
“I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer; I stand up but you merely look at me.” 30:20
Here we see that Job lamented the feelings that God was silent and possibly indifferent.
David and Jesus:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Ps. 22:1; Mt. 27:46; Mk. 15:34
God did not strike them down or disown them for lamenting their situations, but in fact loved them through their struggles.
People benefit emotionally from expressing emotions up to a point. Repressing uncomfortable feelings or pretending they are not there can lead to some more serious emotional issues down the road. We are not talking here about throwing an endless pity party, or making wallowing in our sorrows a way of life. We are talking about being real, expressing our pain, asking God to help us deal with things, placing our trust in his faithfulness, finding hope and recovery in an intimate relationship with him. Expressing emotion is not the only step, but it is often a first step. For many people, it is a release and they feel better afterward…sort of the equivalent of what some call “a good cry.” If you have been down or depressed for some time, it may be time to reach out to someone outside yourself who can help you gain a more hopeful perspective (a spiritually mature friend, a pastor or counselor). Sitting in the dark and feeding dark thoughts is not the same thing as biblical lamentation. Biblical lamentation, I believe, is calling out to God in search of help, healing and hope.
A practical exercise is to write a letter to God. If the issue is a big deal, it might become a series of letters. In these letters, express your heartfelt feelings to God, like the psalmists did. The one guiding thing I recommend is, at the end of each letter, to give the problem to God. Ask him to motivate and empower you if you need to take action, and to leave the rest to him. Visualize yourself handing the issue, the problem, the person over to him. He is God, and you are not. You were not meant to bear God-sized burdens. This is healthy lamentation. This exercise is helpful emotionally and spiritually. It stops the obsessive thinking for a while, and it strengthens your relationship with God.