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Lament: From Wrenching Pain to Worship
October 7, 2006
Dear Friend of Mary Craig Ministries,
A hidden hell. That’s what I call those times when we put up a good front to others, but inside, we’re dying, we’re struggling, we’re in the wilderness in our broken world, and we’re in an anguish no one else seems to understand. They’re not in our shoes. We’re walking through the valley of the shadow of death, and we haven’t gotten to that place where we fear no evil.
At these times in our lives, friends "don’t want to hear it." Okay, rejoice with those who rejoice, but weep with those who weep? What happens when our laughter turns to mourning and our joy turns to gloom?
We turn to the living God in lament. Lament is biblical. Lament freely expresses suffering, the power of grief, the cry for comfort in the depths of the pit. Lament articulates our confusion, our pain, our struggle to persevere. Lament reveals genuine anguish as a protest in prayer to God for God’s presence and power to deliver in the face of intense complaint.
Lament does not murmur and complain as if there is no God. Lament registers complaint against God because He is God!
In his book, A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament, Michael Card writes:
It was a shadowy path that began outside the garden. It meanders through all our lives, inevitably leading us through the darkest valleys of our fallen experience…As we make our way along the shadowy twists and turns of the way of lament, two questions confront us again. They are echoes of the experience of the first couple in the garden. If you dig deeply enough, you will discover that one or both of them lie at the heart of every lament, from Job to Jesus’. The two fundamental questions of complaint: "God, where are You," and "God, if you love me and others, then why?" (Michael Card, A Sacred Sorrow, p.16)
When in lament we humble ourselves before a Sovereign God, we find that weeping may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Raising our complaints, protests, and sorrows before God in an honesty not constrained by protocol or convention can lead us to the affirmation of that sovereignty, the very thing we find so frustrating at the moment. It is a holy path, this way of lament, an unavoidable path leading to praise.
Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. Psalm 6.4-6
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? Psalm 13
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but find no rest. Psalm 22
Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. Psalm 69
How long, O LORD, must I call for help and You do not listen? Or cry out to You, ‘Violence!’ but You do not save? Why do You make me look at injustice. Why do You tolerate wrong? Habakkuk
Some laments are internal, when we cry out to God over our hidden hells, the inner pain of our hearts. Some, as in Habakkuk, Lamentations, and psalms like Psalm 73, are external, protests over world conditions, intolerable circumstances, and injustice. Whatever the circumstance, the petition of protest is directed toward God, registered before God, in an appeal to God to do something!
Our Christian lives begin with lament. We weep and mourn in recognition of our estate of sin and misery apart from God’s grace.
Only he who has pined under the greatness of wrath, prizes the greatness of mercy. Charles Spurgeon
Those who mourn over their sins will be comforted. (Matthew 5.4) Those who lament over their sinful, sick, poverty-laden spiritual condition and humble themselves before a holy God find healing, mercy, grace, love, and comfort. Lament leads us to a deeper understanding and relationship with God. Lament opens our hearts to receive God’s healing touch. Lament moves us from the great "I" to the greater "I AM." Lament removes from our souls all that emotional energy before God so that we collapse before His Presence.
God was there all along. We knew that. We were just frustrated waiting, watching for Him, and wondering how things would turn out. Pouring out our emotions in an appropriate manner clears our minds and hearts to turn to the Lord our God. The Holy Spirit gives us the grace of lament—the words, the path, and the example of Jesus.
Jesus walked the way of lament. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered… Hebrews 5.7, 8
Jesus wept. He cried in lament over Jerusalem. He suffered in a real world of pain. Jesus was touched with the feeling of our infirmities. On the cross, taking our sin, Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" And yet He bowed His head and committed His spirit unto the Father as He died. Jesus shows us it’s okay to call upon God for help in the face of pain, injustice, sorrows, and griefs. And He didn’t stay there! He rose from the dead in power!
After the catharsis, lament turns us to humble submission before the Presence of a Holy Father in an encounter of worship where we affirm our reliance upon a sovereign savior who does, in fact, love us.
But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing unto the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13.5, 6
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places. Habakkuk 3.18, 19
I encourage you to pray some of the psalms of lament in the Word, psalms like Psalm 13, Psalm 22, Psalm 6, Psalm 38, Psalm 42, and Psalm 69. Pray them and let the words given to us by the Holy Spirit make your appeal before the Father. He is with you. And I join with you to appeal to God to move in your behalf. I know all about "hidden hell." You will get through whatever it is. Jesus endured the cross, suffered and agonized, and went into the depths of our sin and world that He might drag us out of the dungeon and redeem us from the pit.
God is near. Somehow we live. Satan wants us to curse the Creator, to give up, to collapse in defeat, and to make a mockery of all that is holy and good about the gospel. Say, "no!" Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Many times I have fallen as a heap on the floor, a rag doll with all the stuffing knocked out of me, only to find that I was just days away from a miracle, a move of God in my behalf, something I hadn’t seen or known that would help my circumstance. God will turn your wrenching pain into worship.
Worshiping Him today,
P.S. Go to www.marycraig.org for more articles to help you in your faith. Order from our Catalog section using PayPal. Worship with us 4:30 p.m. Sundays, grow and flourish in small group ministry at Craighouse®, located in the Pompano Plaza at 114 E. McNab Road, Pompano Beach, FL 33060. Log on to www.craighouse.org for a map and more events and Bible studies. Reach MCM at 954-491-7270. Send in your prayer requests. Mary Craig Ministries, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. Federal ID 65-0429517. Be blessed! We love you.
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again, I say, Rejoice.
Let your gentleness be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication
With thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep
Your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4.4-7)
Lola (not her real name) sits in the back of a large church sanctuary hoping against hope that someone there will see her turmoil, but she goes unnoticed. She is not on the worship team, nor is she a Sunday School teacher. She’s not rich. She’s not snazzy. Her faint smile, bleached by the emotions raging within her, hardly tells the story. Stricken with paranoid schizophrenia, battered by the foster care system, Lola knows mental anguish. She lives it every day. And one day she hears about Craighouse. Gathering all her courage, she decides to come and see what it’s all about.
Lola enters one Friday night to find herself in a small group where she can tell her story. She finds others who can identify with her torment. She braves the prayer that will bring the anointing of the Holy Spirit to break yokes of bondage and the beginning of her healing. Her demeanor changes noticeably. Lola knows she has encountered the Presence and Power of Jesus Christ. Lola leaves a different person than when she arrived. She smiles broadly. She has found true community in the body of Christ. She has found Jesus.
Theresa (not her real name) comes one Sunday for the worship service. She can’t see well, so she walks up to the screen to read the words and join in the worship. Her feet have blisters, so she takes her shoes off. She’s been on the streets. She says she’s a Christian and certainly talks the talk. Turns out, she’s a crack addict. After the service, we listen to more of her story and pray for her. She encounters the Holy Spirit. She encounters His holiness. Before she leaves, we give Theresa a new outfit from our clothing rack—a Ralph Lauren T-shirt and Disney jeans overalls. We give her food to take with her. She’s says she’s headed back to New York City. We give her a Bible, some tracts for her friends, and Bible story books for her four-year-old son. Did she use us? Perhaps, but we blessed her at Craighouse; and we will be blessed—those of us who ministered to her and those of you who give to MCM.
Samuel (not his real name) emails of his deep distress, financial and emotional. He’s contemplating "more than just asking God to put him out of his misery." Dr. Mary’s reply encourages him. He makes it through his tough time with help from MCM.
Pastors come to Training classes and ministry events. They network. They encourage one another in ministry leadership. They learn and share and grow. They leave refreshed to inspire their congregations and make disciples of Jesus Christ. They leave motivated, excited, and full.
At MCM we see lives transformed, the gospel going forth, and ministry leaders growing and networking. Your gifts to MCM seed into lives around the world.
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