Often, we naturally want to give comforting words or help make things feel better. But ultimately it’s God’s Words that bring comfort and life in His timing.
Does the Bible give us an example of how to respond to deep suffering? What do we do when we know God is good but life is hard?
About a third of the Psalms are categorized as laments, and they give us a solid example of godly grief.
"To cry is human, but to lament is Christian." —Mark Vroegop
Let’s look at Psalm 77 together to learn what it means to lament:
1 I cry aloud to God,
Look to God
The psalmist Asaph is going through a trial that is deep and painful. He can’t help but cry aloud, he can’t sleep at night, his soul refuses to be comforted, he moans, and his spirit faints. But Asaph looks to God. Notice that he is not looking to retail therapy, TV watching, or ice cream binging. Asaph is bringing his pain to God. He’s voicing it out loud and not simply “praying in his heart.” Day and night he reaches out… and yet, it doesn’t seem to help right away. Does that mean he should be doing something different? No, Asaph is doing exactly what he needs to in this time of crisis—looking to God.
Let’s keep reading:
Asaph knows that God is sovereign over his trial (“You hold my eyelids open”). He tries to think about God and His mighty works in the past and His great promises, but it doesn’t seem to work right away.
Whoa! Do these complaints reveal Asaph’s faithlessness? Do they show blatant disrespect for God? No, because these are not accusations at God but rather complaints to God. Asaph is trying to reconcile his experience with Who God is.
I’ve totally been here. After my son passed away, I cried out to God and said, “If this is what Your love looks like then I want nothing to do with it.” Yeah, not good. But voicing my pain to God was huge in my grief journey! God didn’t design you and me to be able to hold all that pain inside. It must be released. God is the only one Who can handle it.
What about you? Is there a pain in your life that you haven’t told God about? Yes, God already knows what it is, but you need to tell Him what it is and how it’s affecting you. God designed you with a need to voice pain, but rather than complaining to ourselves or others we need to lament to God.
Crying to God and sharing your heart is key. He can totally handle it. But don’t stop there…
There is a turning in verse 10:
10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
Then Asaph remembers and appeals to the redemptive work of God:
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
Asaph rehearses truth. The truth about Who God is and what He has done is more real than his own experience. This may be hard to agree with, but think about it with me… Our experiences are filtered through our senses and emotions. How many times have we misperceived or misunderstood something? I’ve done that more times than I can count! One thing we can bank everything on is the revelation of God—the Bible. It’s stood the test of time, is historically accurate and has radically changed lives.
I love what Elizabeth Elliot says about it:
“If you dwell on your own feelings about things rather than dwelling on the faithfulness, the love, and the mercy of God, then you’re likely to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Our feelings are very fleeting and ephemeral, aren’t they? We can’t depend on them for five minutes at a time. But dwelling on the love, faithfulness, and mercy of God is always safe.”
What’s the greatest act of redemption you can think of in all of history?
Maybe you struggle remembering what God has done for you. Maybe you’re thinking I’m not so sure God has done anything for me.
Dear friend, let’s look at the cross together in Scripture. Don’t skim! Read it slowly.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8
God in His great, great love for you sent His Son Jesus to bridge the chasm between the holy God and sinful man. Not only is God the source of all that’s good and beautiful, but He Himself is good and beautiful. To know Him through Jesus brings abundant life, steadfast joy, and securing peace.
This doesn’t mean an easy life. Notice verse 19 says, “Your way was through the sea… through great waters.” God had them go through a trial rather than be plucked out of it. God may plan this for your life. It is for a purpose… maybe even 10,000 purposes. And when life, joy, and peace come in spite of a painful life, you know for a fact it’s because God worked (Romans 8:31-39).
“God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of 3 of them.” —John Piper
Asaph obviously didn’t keep this lament to himself (it’s in the Bible!), and neither should we. Like Asaph, share with others the pain of your heart and what God has done for you in the past. Pain and praise. Oftentimes, simply rehearsing out loud to a friend God’s character and work can build up your faith in hard times. I know it has mine.
As you read this, did a pain and praise come to your mind? Please share below in the comments, we’d love to hear! But don’t stop there—share your lament with a friend and remind each other of God’s character and work.
As I wrote this, one of my favorite songs came to mind:
Please share your pain and praise that came to mind as you read this post. We would love to hear from you! But remember, don’t stop there—also share your lament with a friend so that you can remind each other of God’s character and work.
Read more from Kathy here: Finding Hope in Heartache, Finding A Sure Hope After Deep Loss, 10 Favorite Bible Verses On Adoption, Hope When My Heart Hurts
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