I feel it, don’t you? These are dark and desperate days. Five weeks of social distancing (by my reckoning), the curious hailstorm that passed through Westboro last week, the sixteen-inch snow earlier this week, the constant news cycle of fear and death nationally, and now, yesterday, our Wisconsin governor’s decision to lock us down till almost June. Gives off images of the apocalypse, doesn’t it?
In such dark and desperate times you and I just might be tempted to complain. How do you think God feels about that?
Before you log out thinking I’m being too obvious, I’d like you to consider my provocative statement for the week: God wants you to complain! Belly-ache, no. But, biblically, Christianly, as one in relationship with Him, God wants you to tell Him exactly what’s going on and how you feel about it.
The word we need here is “lament,” and God wants you to do it!
In Psalm 13 David endures a painful situation. While we don’t know the circumstances, David begins in honest confusion, but ends in trust. My hope is that we at Woodland, and anybody else who travels with us through this time, might learn to do the same. And that by learning to lament we might grow up in our faith in Christ, and that in dark and desperate days.
In dark and desperate days believers must TURN TO GOD (:1-2). David begins his lament by addressing God. How long, O LORD? That’s Step #1 in any lament—ADDRESSING GOD.
It’s critical because there’s so many places we can turn when we hurt—to drugs or alcohol, to Netflix or Prime, to gossip or anything that makes us feel better. Addressing God in heart-wrenching agony isn’t wrong. In fact, in nearly 50 psalms that qualify as laments, God invites this of His people.
Step #2 in any lament is a COMPAINING ABOUT CIRCUMSTANCES. Looking through the psalms, these complaints will be specific and they will involve real situations about how the psalmists perceived God to be handling their trials.
So, in Psalm 13, we get: How long will you hide your face from me? … How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? … How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
David hurts here because God is not acting in his pain. In fact, David poetically pictures God as one who hides his face and leaves him to figure things out on His own.
Most of us have a problem in that we’ve grown up thinking God wants us to suffer silently. Somehow we think God wants us to say “I’m o.k.” when we’re not o.k., to say “I’m good,” when we’re not good; to endure pain stoically with the stiff upper lip. Yet, when we do this we cut ourselves off from God, and God becomes practically irrelevant in our pain.
Mark Vroegop in his excellent book Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy writes:”Giving God the silent treatment is the ultimate manifestation of unbelief … This silence is a soul killer.”
David and the other psalmists agree. Far better to complain to God out of belief.
In dark and desperate days believers must ASK GOD TO ACT according to His character (:3-4).
This brings us to Step #3 in lament: APPEALING TO GOD ACCORDING TO HIS CHARACTER. David now asks God to act according to who God is. Consider and and answer me, O LORD God. Literally, “gaze intently on me”. Don’t hide your face. Talk to me. Then He asks of God (and this might be my favorite line!) light up my eyes. Literally that’s “brighten my eyes”.
Do this Lord, lest I sleep the sleep of death … lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him” … lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. David is saying that if you don’t act, my LORD God, Your character won’t be obvious. David is jealous for God’s reputation.
Now, as New Covenant believers living after the cross of Jesus, we’re not promised we won’t die of Coronavirus, or that we’ll be safe, or have jobs, or get to gather again soon as a church family, or get to live as free people. But we’re promised we’ll have everything we need in Christ. We’re promised nothing will prevail over the church of Jesus. We’re promised the heavens and earth will be restored at Jesus’ second coming.
These promises of God guide us in our prayers as we appeal to God according to His character.
In dark and desperate days believers must CHOOSE TO TRUST GOD (:5-6). We come now to the final step in lament. Lament step #4—CHOOSING TO TRUST GOD.
In most psalms this final step comes with a strong transition. In Psalm 13, we read: But I have trusted in your steadfast love. David worked his way through to the object of his trust. This is God’s covenantal, loyal love. God’s character guarantees the surety of David’s choice. And an emotional transition takes place: … my heart shall rejoice … I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Do you see what’s happened. David has started out in anger, frustration and confusion. He has been honest through ADDRESSING GOD and COMPLAINING ABOUT CIRCUMSTANCES. Then, He’s APPEALED TO GOD, according to God’s character. And, finally, he’s made the CHOICE TO TRUST GOD.
We need to lament in our church family during these dark and desperate days. If we do, we’ll recognize where we’re starting from, so that we can start to grow. We’ll then move along a pathway that will take us to God’s character learning finally to trust.
This is “good” complaining, lament that is honest and dependent on God and His character.
So, this week, as we grow weary of more bad news, let’s turn to God through lament. Here’s a few projects you might try. You’ll need the following lament psalms listed in Appendix 2 of Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: 3,4,5,7,10,13,17,22,25,26,28,31,39,42,43,54,55,56,57,59,61,64,71,77,86,120,141,142 (personal laments); 12,44,58,60,74,79,80,83,85,90,94,123,126 (corporate laments).
- Look up one of the psalms of lament and find the four steps in lament. The acronym ACAC will help you remember what they are.
- Go through the psalms listed and find the TRANSITIONS. This won’t always be perfectly obvious.
- Read through some of the lament psalms and then write your own lament using the ACAC steps.
But, above all, let the LORD hear you this week. Don’t be silent. Live in that pathway that travels from fear and frustration to intentional praise.
And have a great week in the LORD!