“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.” – Rocky Balboa
Thank goodness we’re not alone in this fight.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” - Lamentations 3:22-24
Suffering brings about something in life that isn’t felt elsewhere. It makes us want to scream in frustration, question our faith, and disconnect from reality. Why would God allow this? What did I do to deserve this? How long will this last? Well, what if you were told that the Bible shows us how to ask these questions appropriately? And not only to ask, but to biblically complain with the ultimate intention of learning to trust God in all His ways?
That is the language of lament: turn, complain, ask, trust. Often forgotten and rarely sought, most believers find it during their own darkest times and deepest struggles. Lament calls us to turn to God, bring our complaints to Him, boldly ask Him to act, and finally reaffirm His sovereignty and worthiness to be praised by placing our trust in Him.
If only it were that easy to do throughout all of life.
Pain and suffering are messy. It’s raw and unkempt. Most people find it awkward and unsettling to see, much less engage with such sadness. But we’re called to weep with those who weep. Here are some thoughts I want to share.
Lamenting is a Demonstration of Great Faith
If you heard someone say “Why have you forsaken me God” or “Why are you hiding God”, you might think that doesn’t sound spiritually healthy, and you might want to immediately say something to contradict those statements. I wonder why the Psalmists wrote those in Psalms 22 and Psalms 10, respectively? Those questions are not meant to be fueled by anger and resentment, but rather in the lamenting tones of humbleness, frustration, and sadness. If we come to God in our times of suffering and struggles asking these questions, is this not a demonstration of faith? That even in our trials we look to Him in faith to be present and resolve the suffering?
Consider the Individual
Suffering, like any experience or emotion, is processed differently depending on the individual. Some hold it in, some radiate anger, and others may fall somewhere in between. It is also important to understand that everyone is in a different place with their relationship with Jesus. Some have no understanding of the Gospel or of Christ’s love, while others know it extremely well over years of walking with Jesus. Within either context, it is important to remember who you are sitting with. Some may need to receive the full intensity of the gospel message, while others just need to be heard and listened to. Either way, grace and patience are always imperative.
Lament is a Marathon, Not a Sprint
Speaking of patience, lamenting and healing don’t happen overnight. For the one suffering, it is a continuous process of turning, complaining, asking, and trusting. For those sitting alongside, it may be easy to throw a well-meaning verse, statement, or piece of advice in hopes for a quick fix. But the Bible shows us time and time again how suffering and trials occurred over days, weeks, or even years. You may not have words to share, but you do have ears to hear. And that is a start.
Lament and Healthy Boundaries
Suffering has a way of bringing idolatry to the surface in our own lives. One such idol could be the pride of thinking we are capable of fixing the problems of our friends and families. This can often lead to unhealthy beliefs and boundaries. Healthy boundaries are hard, especially when someone calls upon us to be present in a time of need. 1. We cannot be anyone’s everything. Any attempt would overwhelm us and place the eyes of the one suffering in the wrong place. We are incapable of filling the role of God. 2. Do not profess to have the capacity to be with everyone, every time. As humans, we were created as finite beings with need for rest (both spiritual and physical). Even Jesus went away for periods of time for solitude, rest, and prayer (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16).
Sin is (Ultimately) to Blame
This is always a tough one. I want to be clear that not all suffering is directly correlated with a previous, recent sin (although sometimes it may be). However, all pain, all suffering, and all loss ultimately stem from the fall of creation at the beginning of time. We live in an imperfect world, full of sadness and strife. But remember God’s incredible plan: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. This is not the final chapter. In times of suffering and pain, lament helps direct you towards this incomplete yet beautiful promise.
The title of this blog is derived from a book I read recently, titled “Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament” by Mark Vroegop. Some of my own failures and experiences while sitting with those in suffering were put into focus and discussed within this book. It is a great starting point for understanding suffering, lament, and the biblical evidence for readers to consider when faced with the former or desiring to understand the latter. I highly recommend it to everyone, as we continue to grow deeper together as a local church and walk with one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s continue to rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.