Being honest with God. – March 26th

I have been reading about the place of lament in the Bible and faith. It is interesting that the only book in the Bible named for an expression of emotion is Lamentations. Not joy or thanksgiving or praise. 40% of the psalms are expressions of lament; cries of grief, anger, resentment and suffering. Walter Brueggemann, one of the great theologians of our time, observes, “the laments in the books of Psalms and Lamentations are all an expression of grief, but they are also an expression of hope. They are an insistence that things cannot remain this way and they must be changed. Such prayers are partly an address to God, but they are also a communal resolve to hang in and take transformative action. Unless that kind of grief and rage and anger is put to speech, it can never become energy. So I believe the transformative function of such prayers are that they transform energy and rage into positive energy.”

But modern Christianity has by and large avoids lament, opting instead for praise, hope, joy and thanksgiving. Christian Copyright Licensing International tracks the songs used by churches, and its list of the top 100 worship songs reveals that only five of the songs would qualify as a lament. Most of the songs reflect themes of celebratory praise: “Here I Am to Worship,” “Happy Day,” “Indescribable,” “Friend of God,” “Glorious Day,” “Marvelous Light,” and “Victory in Jesus.” These songs and the emotions they draw on are an important expression of faith, but without the balance of the breadth of human emotions we are denying ourselves gifts of central truths Scripture offers. The New Testament is filled with lament. Again and again we hear stories of people who come to Jesus with their pleas for help or simply to express their grief and pain, such as Martha in the story of the death of her brother Lazarus. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died,” she laments to Jesus. Christ expresses His own pain and grief as we hear in His prayers in the garden before His arrest and on the cross when he asks, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”

In a lecture on lament ( Walter Brueggemann observes that the act of lamenting actually serves as a call to God for intervention. He points out how again and again it is the act of an individual that causes God and Jesus to step in and do something. In his letter to the Philippians Paul instructs us to, “bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks.”

I believe we are in a time of lamenting and we should not hold back. God does not expect us to put on a happy face as some proof of faith, nor are any of our emotions unworthy of God attention. On the contrary, coming to God in the full truth of our lives invites God to step into our reality. As I understand it, God does not promise us a rose garden or a calm smooth sea. What God says, again and again, is “I am with you,” and with that presence things are transformed. By acknowledging our deepest truths to God we invite God in. Likewise, in acknowledging our truth to ourselves we open ourselves to see how God meets us and by grace what we find transforms our laments into thanksgiving.

So, if it is in you, share your deepest truth with God.