This week I welcome guest blogger, Clint Watkins, as he shares with us how his personal experience of loss and pain led him to learn how to seize hope through lament. If you want to learn more about Clint, please visit his website.
Three and a half years ago my wife and I lost our son, Eli, to stillbirth.
One of the difficulties we faced as we experienced loss and pain, especially in gathered worship, was that it felt like there was no song for our sorrow. But God’s word includes songs of sorrow called lament.
Mark Vroegop defines lament as. “A prayer in pain that leads to trust.” The way I like to describe it is “wrestling honestly with the Lord.” Lament gives us language to seize hope by wrestling with God.
Turn to Psalm 77, and we will find it is a lament that teaches us how to lament.
Weep: Describe Your Despair (verses 1-3)
Notice how Asaph shares his pain in this prayer.
- Crying out, distress, groaning, spirit grows faint
- God is not bringing him comfort.
Have you ever felt this way? In distress, discomfort, despair? Do you feel this way today? God’s Word acknowledges your sorrow.
Asaph’s lament is so honest. Our prayers are typically polite, calm, measured. But his prayer is full of tears, volume, and pain—even thinking about God agitates his soul! Yet he turns to the Lord to explain his distress. He cries out to God and talks about his suffering. He describes his despair.
You see this all throughout the Psalms—sufferers take the time to explain their situation and their sorrow to the Lord. This is surprising—God is all-knowing. So why would we need to describe our experience for him? Doesn’t he already know? It’s common to pray something like, “God, you know what we’re going through, so please help.” Yet, even though God knows what they’re going through, people in the Bible describe the details of their suffering with God.
This is really surprising, that God would both invite and command us to explain our situation and feelings to him. It feels inefficient, uncomfortable, unnecessary. Yet the Lord offers his listening ear and welcomes us to describe our despair.
I had a very powerful experience with this type of invitation to describe despair. After we lost our son Eli, I knew that seeing a counselor would be helpful to process my grief. But the first counselor I saw was a pretty negative experience. He did more talking than listening, leaving me further agitated in my grief. But I knew I couldn’t let that dictate my whole view on therapy (especially because my wife was a therapist!), so I moved on to a different counselor.
As I anticipated my first session with this new counselor, I was nervous. Was this going to be another waste of time? Was he going to listen? But I’ll never forget how he started our session. Four words. “Tell me about Eli.” It was such a simple yet powerful invitation. He wanted to hear my story, hear about my son, hear about my pain.
This is what the Lord invites us all to do. He brings us in, sits down across from us, and says, “Tell me about your pain.”
It is good and necessary for us to acknowledge the difficulties we feel and the heartbreak we see. The Bible doesn’t force us to slap gospel-colored band-aids on our open wounds. God wants us to engage and express our hurts.
So instead of avoiding the difficult emotions you have, or trying to tune them out, or get over them quickly—slow down and engage the struggles you feel. Bring them to the Lord. Describe your despair.