The Honesty of Hurt
How can God allow unthinkable tragedy? This is a question that flies like a banner over the world, yet is tucked away in the dark corner of Christian triteness. Perhaps it is time to learn a language other than the shallow phrases we often throw around. Perhaps it is time to “reach out to God in the lost language of lament.” (Michael Card)
What is this mysterious language? Does it have a unique grammar and syntax? The best way to understand its definition is to observe it. The Psalms are a great observation post.
How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.”
Sorrow is an emotion that ties all of humanity together. Rich, poor, young, and old each share in the trials of life. Even the most devout find themselves in moments of affliction and suffering. However, it is those who wear religion like a cloak who tend to bury the reality of their hearts. Such deception is not the language of the Bible where prophets, kings, disciples, and even the Savior openly express the heights of their joy and the depths of their grief. This is the heart of lament, where through brokeness we reach out to God with raw emotions; which are unfettered by shame, pride, or denial. This kind of transparency frees us to laugh heartily, speak openly, and weep bitterly. The beauty is that God accepts it all and our honesty eventually turns tears into praise. Psalm 13 perfectly exemplifies this. Let the honesty of your hurt amplify the wonder of your worship.
In the wake of heartbreaking tragedy we must guard ourselves from being too guarded. Job wrestled with a loving God amidst tragedy and we would be wise to enter the ring ourselves.
Today we would ask Job to leave all these negative emotions at the church door. They are not appropriate to nor do they fit inside the narrow confines of our definition of worship. And so, likewise, those of us who have nothing else to offer but our laments find the door effectively closed in our faces. It cost Job everything to teach us this lesson. It is time we learned it.
Worship is not only about good feelings, joy, and prosperity, though they are at the heart of it. If this were true, then according to this modern American understanding of worship, the poor have nothing to say, nothing of value to bring to God. While Jesus would pronounce a blessing on those who mourn, we pronounce this curse. Those who “labor and are heavy laden” can find no place in our comfortable churches to lay their burdens. We reason, “Who could possibly conceive of a God who would want to receive such worthless empty offerings?” But Job desperately clings to such a God, one who encourages us to offer everything to Him, every joy and every sorrow. All our broken hearts. All our contrite spirits. Because He is worth it.” (Michael Card , A Sacred Sorrow)
While we all search for answers to the injustice of this world, we should remember that God is big enough to handle the questions. Pursuing an explanation is actually pursuing a person until all our questioning fades into trusting. That person is Christ; quite fluent in the language of lament Himself (Matthew 27:46). The outcome of lament is not an “answer”, but a better question. Psalm 13 hinted at it. While we begin by asking “why?”, lament guides us to asking “where?”. Where is God in this? He is with us in every tear drenched hour and lament helps us to slowly come to that awareness.
So, instead of throwing around clichés, perhaps we should enter into the process of lament. Weep. Question. Become exhausted by tears. Let your “why” become “where”. He is there. He is tender. He hears you and accepts you through Christ alone.
- A Sacred Sorrow by Michael Card (Also the companion experience guide)
- Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow by Nancy Guthrie
- Is God Really in Control by Jerry Bridges
- School Shootings and Spiritual Warfare by Russell Moore