We come into this world crying.
We cry again, frequently, while we’re young—usually because of some temporary pain or sadness which rudely snatches us away from the simple wonder of childhood. And then, despite the richness and beauty of life, as we grow older we continue to cry, just more quietly. We sigh and groan inwardly as we see and feel that the world we are born into is somehow infected. Pain, sickness, abuse, suffering and loneliness—we can’t really miss that although the world is miraculous, it’s also broken. Death is never distant, lying in wait as the ultimate reminder that something is seriously wrong. And so, we cry out along with the rest of creation.
Enter the powerful practice of lament. Although this is not something I have much personal experience in, I have recently become convinced that lament is a very special, very underutilised gift, a biblical “language” that the Lord has given us for our difficult journey here on earth. A third of the psalms are laments, and many other prayers of lament are scattered all over the Bible.
Laments are basically cries of sadness and desperation. They are raw, heartfelt prayers to God expressing deep pain caused by this sin-broken world. But importantly, laments also convey a turning towards God within these prayers. They express trust in God even when He can’t be seen or felt through despair, confusion and pain.
In Psalm 13, for example, David frustratedly cries out to God,
“How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” v. 2
He continues very differently just a few lines later:
“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.” v. 5
The writer seems ambiguous in his mixed-up emotions, but also authentic and trusting. He is turning his sadness towards God.
Like the biblical writers, we lament because we are suffering, or are deeply troubled by the suffering of others. But we also lament because we know God is sovereign and good. We know His promises are true. So, we turn to Him. We reach out to Him, not necessarily for answers, but for His presence. The laments in Scripture seem to mysteriously convey to us the profound truth that God is generally not rescuing people out of suffering but rather longing for them to invite Him into it.
True lament should also include sadness for sin. We should not cry out against what is wrong outside of us without simultaneously lamenting for what is wrong inside of us. All of the suffering and tragedy reminds us that this world is groaning under the weight of sin. Repentance is needed because, at least at a broad level, sin and suffering are linked. As God’s children and as Jesus followers we should grieve over sin and the related slowness of the coming kingdom—both in the world out there and in our own inner world.
Lament is for everyone. We all need and long for God’s comfort and communion. And although these blessings seldom get rid of the pain, they always come to us through it as we turn towards Him. He can then begin to redeem that pain (as only He can) and transform it into something that can be used to bring healing to and through us—instead of more hurt.
If you are in a dark season of unanswered prayer, sad or angry or concerned because of situations in the world around you, or unsure how to express your frustration or disappointment to God… lament is for you. It is a powerful scriptural invitation for you to bring whatever is inside you to the Lord, no matter how it comes out. Will you try it? Your loving Father is sitting patiently next to you, wanting you to tell Him about it with whatever words or groans you can manage. Can you bring yourself to properly look toward Him and start to express whatever it is that you’re feeling?
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
Triumphant Faith – Streams in the Desert – July 15
- 202215 Jul
It is easy to love Him when the blue is in the sky,
When summer winds are blowing, and we smell the roses nigh;
There is little effort needed to obey His precious will
When it leads through flower-decked valley, or over sun-kissed hill.
It is when the rain is falling, or the mist hangs in the air,
When the road is dark and rugged, and the wind no longer fair,
When the rosy dawn has settled in a shadowland of gray,
That we find it hard to trust Him, and are slower to obey.
It is easy to trust Him when the singing birds have come,
And their canticles are echoed in our heart and in our home;
But ’tis when we miss the music, and the days are dull and drear,
That we need a faith triumphant over every doubt and fear.
And our blessed Lord will give it; what we lack He will supply;
Let us ask in faith believing–on His promises rely;
He will ever be our Leader, whether smooth or rough the way,
And will prove Himself sufficient for the needs of every day.
To trust in spite of the look of being forsaken; to keep crying out into the vast, whence comes no returning voice, and where seems no hearing; to see the machinery of the world pauselessly grinding on as if self-moved, caring for no life, nor shifting a hair-breadth for all entreaty, and yet believe that God is awake and utterly loving; to desire nothing but what comes meant for us from His hand; to wait patiently, ready to die of hunger, fearing only lest faith should fail–such is the victory that overcometh the world, such is faith indeed.
Order and argument in prayer
By: Charles Spurgeon
‘Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.’ Job 23:3–4
Suggested Further Reading: Daniel 9:1–19
The true spiritual order of prayer seems to me to consist of something more than mere arrangement. It is most fitting for us first to feel that we are now doing something that is real; that we are about to address ourselves to God, whom we cannot see, but who is really present; whom we can neither touch nor hear, nor by our own senses can apprehend, but who, nevertheless, is as truly with us as though we are speaking to a friend of flesh and blood like ourselves. Feeling the reality of God’s presence, our mind will be led by divine grace into a humble state; we shall feel like Abraham, when he said, ‘I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes.’ Consequently we shall not deliver ourselves of our prayer as boys repeating their lessons, as a mere matter of rote, much less shall we speak as if we were rabbis instructing our pupils, or as I have heard some do, with the coarseness of a highwayman stopping a person on the road and demanding his purse of him; but we shall be humble yet bold petitioners, humbly importuning mercy through the Saviour’s blood. We shall not have the reserve of a slave but the loving reverence of a child, yet not an impudent, impertinent child, but a teachable obedient child, honouring his Father, and therefore asking earnestly, but with deferential submission to his Father’s will. When I feel that I am in the presence of God, and take my rightful position in that presence, the next thing I shall want to recognise will be that I have no right to what I am seeking, and cannot expect to obtain it except as a gift of grace, and I must recollect that God limits the channel through which he will give me mercy—he will give it to me through his dear Son. Let me put myself then under the patronage of the great Redeemer.
When We Know
“Then you will know that I am the LORD.” – Ezekiel 6:13 NASB
Describing events that would take place after His death, Jesus told His disciples, “I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe” (John 14:29). He was demonstrating His foreknowledge and sovereignty, proving that His words were true and helping prepare them for the future.
This is a theme throughout many of God’s prophetic messages and is central to the ministry of Ezekiel. Repeatedly in the book of Ezekiel, God told him, “Then you will know.” When His people experienced judgment, they would know He was the Lord (Ezekiel 7:4). When God “set [His] face against them,” they would remember His warnings (Ezekiel 15:7).
Some doubted that Ezekiel was delivering God’s messages, but God confirmed He would do everything He said through this prophet (Ezekiel 24:24). God even decreed that the day would come when dry bones would come to life (Ezekiel 37). Many refused to accept this prophecy, but God said this would come true, so they would “know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:13-14).
Many people deny that the Bible is true and ridicule those who believe in God. Some conclude that those who know Him are naïve, that the Gospel is foolish.
Like Ezekiel, make sure you are confident in your relationship with God, that you know Jesus, and that He is your Lord. Commit your life to serving Him. Live so that the world may know.
Reflection Question: How do you answer people who don’t believe God’s Word is true?