I’m used to defining strong faith as anticipating positive outcomes and joyfully trusting the promises of God. Whenever my faith feels numb, it’s usually because I haven’t talked to the Lord about my struggles. I’m learning how biblical lament leads to a grateful heart.
During our summer vacation, I told God my honest feelings and noticed my focus shifted from my problems to God’s power. Usually, I associate lament with death and mourning the loss of a loved one. I didn’t know the expression of any sorrow is also biblical lament.
Biblical lament expresses sorrow over many different kinds of loss. And it’s an instrumental part of strengthening our faith.
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Before you continue reading, I would love for you to head on over to (in)courage and read my guest post, God Is Our Safe Place, where I share how God spoke to me through lament.
Then hop back here to read the rest of this post. I created a free topical lament journal for you to download at the end of this post!
There’s a Difference Between Complaining and Lamenting
When we tell God our sorrows, doubts, and fears, we may feel like we are being ungrateful and disrespectful. It’s helpful to distinguish lamenting from complaining. Lament is a passionate expression of grief and sorrow which seeks to draw closer to God. Complaining dissatisfies us, whereas lament helps us connect with God, leads to repentance, and renews our hope. More than a third of the Psalms are laments, all ending in praise. We may lament when we’re grieving, helpless in our situations, struggling with sin, or heartbroken.
Soon after, Hannah cried out to the Lord, pleading for a child; she felt better and could eat again (1 Samuel 1:9-28). Through lament, Jeremiah found peace and changed his hopeless perspective (Lamentations 3:1-24).
After I poured out my heart before the Lord, God redirected my defeated thoughts.
Biblical lament helps shift our gaze from our problems and onto God
I get caught up in looking for answers and figuring out the reasons for my pain and suffering, perhaps so I can alleviate it. In my desire to figure things out, I subconsciously create a spiritual wall between God and myself. I know all the “godly answers” I’ve heard and been taught my entire life. Putting a spiritual faith spin of positivity over my deep-rooted brokenness doesn’t lead to inner healing. Sometimes, what I really long for is a personal encounter with my Savior.
Naming out loud, each brick dividing my heart helps me tear it down. Unloading burdens makes room for God to fill us up with His truth and love.
There have been several unforgettable moments in my life when I felt the Lord telling me to look to Him. The lake convo with God was one of them. Another happened many years ago when I thought I would lose my first pregnancy after six years of infertility.
A week after my first positive pregnancy test, I ended up in the ER with internal bleeding from an ectopic pregnancy. The woman in the bed beside mine heard me crying and reached to open the curtain separating us. In her grief, she said, “You’re in here to save a life, and I’m in here because I tried to take mine.”
The Lord gave me the words to the hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”
I shared with her the hope we have in Jesus Christ. This world may take everything away from us, but it can NEVER take Jesus away. The Lord reminds us of our salvation when we think we have lost it all. Nothing can steal that joy from us. When they wheeled her out of the room, she reached toward me, professing her belief and asking me to pray for her.
There is always new life in Jesus.
The nurse must have heard me because she hummed the hymn’s tune when she came to prep me for surgery.
During our lowest moments, when we turn our eyes upon Jesus and off of the things of this world, we will find love, hope, and peace.
By the way, I woke up from surgery still pregnant! My daughter’s name is Madeline Faith, and she is 19 years old.
“When we stare at our lives and glance at God, the troubles and problems in our lives can begin to look huge. If we’re not careful, our problems take up most of the space in our thoughts and consequently govern our hearts and emotions.” Kristi Mclelland
Lament is the catalyst to healing, opening our hearts to the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
When we sense God’s comfort and care for us, we turn our eyes to the true character of God.
We need to ask ourselves if our faith feels numb because we are basing our view of who God is on difficult circumstances or how other people treat us.
God never promised a world without trouble. The fact that there is trouble doesn’t make him unloving.
I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Jesus died on the cross so we could find hope in heaven, where there is no pain and suffering.
When Jesus endured pain, suffering, and injustice, he voiced his despair to the Lord. Jesus expressed his emotions to the Father, so He doesn’t expect us to suppress ours.
Here are some areas you may want to talk with God about.
Work, Dreams, and Aspirations:
We pray for God to show us what he wants us to do, and we do it. But when the outcome isn’t what we expect, we may question God’s leading. Have you felt God leading you to do something that didn’t turn out as you expected? Tell God your confusion about his calling on your life and ask Him to show you any false expectations. Is he moving your heart toward the next scary step? Or do you need to recognize how God is already moving where you are?
I struggled with infertility for six years. If you’re reading this, longing to become a parent, I understand the ache.
Tell God how much the constant reminders hurt. Share every well-intended word of comfort from others that, instead, cut deep. Express your anger, sorrow, fear, and ache.
If you are a parent, what stage are you in? Are you in the multitasking, overwhelmed stage caring for little children? Are you mourning the loss of being wanted and needed in the same ways as when your kids were little? No more “Look at me, mommy!” Have your children left for college, and the silent house screams loneliness? Have you lost your sense of purpose?
Share your loneliness with the Lord. Ask the Lord to show you the big picture and help you feel needed and loved in the new ways your children may express their care for you. Ask the Lord to show you new areas where you can use your gifts for the Lord. Do you sense God calling you to do/try something new?
We pray for healthy communication and restoration in our relationships. But the struggle is real. When people we love proclaim the name of Jesus, but our own personal experience with them creates a struggle for our own mental well-being, life and faith can get confusing. Our lives are supposed to reflect the love of Christ, but people hurt, offend, misrepresent, and misunderstand us. Sometimes I don’t understand why God allows relationships to be so difficult. Sometimes I get mad at God for allowing this kind of hurt in my life.
Tell God how confusing relationships are. If you are angry, tell God. If you are sad, tell God. If you feel rejected and alone, tell God. If you have based who God is on how others treat you, tell Him. If you are angry at God for not restoring relationships, tell God. Then give space for the Lord to speak to your heart.
Are you struggling with health issues? It’s easy to get down when our health is declining. What can you do for your mental and physical health? Instead of despairing over what you can’t do, what have you done that shows inner strength?
How have you suffered physically? Tell God how frustrating your limitations feel. Ask the Lord to help you find the right doctors. Pray for your own mental health and for God to help you process any new diagnosis or help you get the right diagnosis.
The Health of Family Members:
Have you experienced trauma watching a loved one suffer? Are you a tired caregiver? Perhaps you are grieving a tragic loss.
Tell the Lord how you feel. Even though he knows what you have been through, share with the Lord how difficult that time was for you and why. Give yourself space and grace to grieve. Did you know the Bible says the Lord collects your tears in a bottle?
Sometimes, we base who God is on how other Christians treat us. Maybe you didn’t feel welcome in a church. Maybe you were abused or gaslighted by church members. Maybe you spoke up about abuse and weren’t believed.
When a lack of empathy from other Christians sidelines you, it helps to tell God why this hurts so much. Tell God your frustrations and confusion. What does God say to you? Ask God to give you grace towards those who have offended you. It’s important to attend church and gather with other believers. Pray for God to give you wisdom.
I have come to know the God of the Bible, whose character is never void of loving-kindness. When I hear God’s voice, his voice of truth never reflects the self-righteous Christian I worry will judge me and who downplays pain and suffering with shameful rebukes. I believe when we pour out our hearts to God about injustice, he redirects our focus to who he really is. When you find your core strength in Jesus Christ, you will understand how to live a healthy life and what it really means to love others well.
Do you need to cry out to Jesus about anything? Feel free to leave a prayer request in the comments. I would love for you to subscribe to the Courageous Faith Newsletter. I have a free library of resources for you. When you subscribe, you will receive a code and access the library. This Topical Lament Journal is the latest freebie.