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.
In the previous post, we learned how lament starts with weeping, in which we describe our despair to the Lord.
Look at how Asaph’s prayer takes a turn. Notice the first word of verse 4: You. Remember Asaph’s sleeplessness in verse 2? He can’t sleep. And who’s responsible? God. Think about this image. “God, it’s as if you are holding my eyelids open. I’m so tired! I can’t even speak! Why aren’t you letting me get some rest?”
He continues describing his despair, which leads him into a refrain of very unsettling questions. Look at these 6 questions that Asaph rattles off. It would be tempting to rush past these. But let these questions impact you.
Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” (Psalm 77:7-9)
This really changes the tone of the conversation, doesn’t it? Asaph no longer sees the Lord as a counselor—they’re in conflict! Some assume that it’s inappropriate to question God. But think about this—the Psalms are the words God gave us to give back to him. These prayers have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, authorized by God. So asking questions like this cannot be inappropriate. They’re God-ordained!
This is shocking, because you will read a lot of bold questioning and complaining in the Psalms, a lot of prayers punctuated with question marks and full of confrontational statements. Let’s just read a few:
Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (Psalm 10:1)
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (Psalm 13:1)
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? (Psalm 22:1)
I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” (Psalm 42:9)
Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. (Psalm 44:23)
Suffering puts us in a place where our pain doesn’t seem to line up with God’s promises, “I know you’re good, but this doesn’t feel like it. I know you’re powerful, so why aren’t you helping me?” It’s not just okay to ask these questions—it’s good and healthy. God invites us to.
Now, why is that? We speak often of being in a relationship with the Lord. “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.” Well, a sign of any good relationship is not the absence of conflict, but dealing with conflict in healthy ways.
A strong relationship with the Lord will involve healthy conflict. Wrestling with God is in our DNA. Remember, that’s how Israel got its name—when Jacob physically wrestled with God. He renamed Jacob and called him Israel, which means “struggle with God.” The Lord saw this wrestling match as the way he wanted to identify his people—those who struggle with the Lord.
And the biblical language of healthy conflict with the Lord is lament. Lament is the courageous decision to deal with the conflict you have with God. It says, “I’m not going anywhere. But I’m not gonna sweep my questions under the rug.”
This is an astounding invitation. The God of the Universe, the one who knows all things, controls all things, sustains all things. The sovereign and holy King—invites you to bring him your questions and complaints. His grace has purchased us a relationship where we can bring him all of our concerns—even when they’re with God himself.
So bring your questions to the Lord. Wrestle with him. Voice your doubt.