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.
As we continue studying Psalm 77, we have already learned how lament starts with weeping, in which we describe our despair to the Lord, and then it moves into wrestling, voicing our doubts to the Lord.
After voicing his doubts, the writer of Psalm 77, Asaph, does something about them. Look at verse 10. He makes a diligent search of the Lord’s goodness. Did you catch the language he recycles from earlier?
- Verse 3: Remembering God caused him grief.
- Verse 6: He remembered his song in the night.
- Verse 11: He now remembers the deeds of the Lord.
He can’t find answers to his questions in his own situation—he’s struggling to see God’s goodness in the present, so he turns to the past. He meditates on who God is and what he has done. I appreciate verse 13, “What god is great like ours?” It’s similar to the cry of Peter when Jesus asks his disciples if they’re going to leave, “Where else will we go?” When you’re in the midst of suffering, and you’re struggling with the Lord and his plan, sometimes it comes down to this: you don’t know what God’s doing, you don’t like what he’s allowing, but you know there’s no hope outside of him.
And do you see what event Asaph lands on as he contemplates God’s character? Verse 15: “You redeemed the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.” He’s talking about the Exodus. God’s people were enslaved to a ruthless King and they cried out to God in their distress. God heard their cries and rescued them from slavery.
Asaph recalls an event that happened a couple thousand years earlier in order to cling to the Lord in his suffering.
Past rescue fuels future hope. This is the anthem he remembers: “God hears our cries and has the power to rescue.”
Asaph had the Exodus to look back to in order to remember God’s rescue. We have our own Exodus event—it’s Easter. The cross and the empty tomb are our receipt of God’s rescue. Christ’s death and resurrection proclaim the same reality that Asaph ponders here: “God hears our cries and has the power to rescue.” In our lament, we can look to the cross.
Nicholas Wolterstorff models for us what this can look like. His book, Lament for a Son, is a book of reflections and laments after his son died in a climbing accident. Listen to a part of one of his prayers, and how similar it sounds to Psalm 77, both in its honesty and its hope. He describes his despair, voices his doubt, then he remembers God’s rescue.
“How is faith to endure, O God, when you allow all this scraping and tearing on us….
If you have not abandoned us, explain yourself.
We strain to hear.
But instead of hearing an answer, we catch sight of God himself scraped and torn.
Through our tears we see the tears of God.”
So when you suffer, after you have described your despair and voiced your doubt, remember his rescue. This is not to erase the sorrow, it’s not to ease the pain. It’s to cling to trust in the midst of trial. To grieve with hope. Through your tears, see the tears of God.