The Beauty of Lament
If you ever had to wait for anything from God, you know as well as I do that God’s timing is never our timing. Often, it’s longer… way longer than we’d hope. And so, we wait. We wait with great anticipation for the day that will come when the wait will be over.
The wait can look different for many people. While some may wait for a relationship, others wait for marriage. Some wait for a child, others wait for a job opportunity, a car, a roof over their head, food on the table, healing from sickness, a wayward child to come back to the Lord, restoration of a relationship and more. Regardless of the object of your wait, the nature of the wait is the same for everyone: you have no control over how long you’ll wait. You simply have to wait and trust God in it. That last part is always easier said than done. Oh, how I know this!
In the wait, it is easy to fall away from your commitment to the Lord, from praying altogether. As time passes, a few uninvited guests creep in like discouragement and his best friend depression. As soon as discouragement sets in, we often do not feel like praying anymore. Notice that I mentioned, “feel” because feelings can be very deceiving and often untrustworthy. Feelings are not always synonymous to truth. Our feelings may scream at us “it’s time to give up and accept your reality” while God’s promises softly repeat “At the right time, I, the Lord will make it happen” (Isaiah 60:22b NLT).
Though we may not be up to praying, that’s when we need to pray most. Our prayers do not need to be eloquent and wrapped in “proper church speech”. Instead, they must be honest, raw, and transparent. What God desires most in our prayers is honesty. Sometimes, we need to pray to ask God to help us pray and there’s nothing wrong with that. At other times, our prayers can be filled with questions and complains and there’s a time for that too. Now, before you go off saying I am wrong because I’m encouraging you to bring your complaints to God, understand that there is such a thing as godly complaint. If you do not believe me, just take a look at the Psalms and the book of Lamentation. Those complaints and questions are simply part of what is known as the prayer of lament. While many in biblical times understood the importance of the prayer of lament, we, as twenty-first century Christians have lost this poetic art.
The prayer of lament is a prayer that draws us to trust God as we express our deepest, most sincere and raw emotions, feelings, and share our thoughts, pains, and complaints with God. The aim of this prayer is to strengthen the trust we have in God.
In Psalms 13, David teaches us to pray such a prayer as he cries out to God:
“O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?” (verse 1-2).
While some, especially in a Church setting, may say that such prayers are inappropriate I beg to differ. Why else would God make sure to include those in the Bible? If you study the Psalms, you will discover than two-thirds of the psalms contains some kind of prayer of lament.
In the wait, when the pain is intense and discouragement is at its highest, God invites us to pray this way. Yet, this is not where it ends. In just five verses, David manages to go from complaining and questioning God and to ask boldly for a response, for God’s intervention. Then, he remembers God’s character, the truth about God and finally turns to trust the Lord. This is the ultimate destination of the prayer of lament: trust.
The wait is not a passive period. Beyond preparing for what you desire, putting your life in order for marriage or whatever you are waiting on God to do in your life, the wait is ultimately a season to grow your trust in God. As you bring your lament to God, you must seek to trust God more even when you cannot reconcile reality with the promises of His Word. Everything changes in your prayer when, after all the questioning, all the complaining, all the crying, you turn to God and say “but I choose to trust you. I will remember your faithful love towards me.” When you transition from pleading, crying to trusting, everything changes.
When we hold back our prayers of lament from God, we rob ourselves. We rob ourselves from drawing closer to God, learning to trust Him, and developing intimacy that no other season of life can bring us. It’s in the painful, difficult, faith-testing seasons of life that we truly develop a closer walk with God and discover the authenticity of our faith. Therefore, as you continue to wait, I want to encourage you not to waste your wait. Don’t waste your wait by not praying! Don’t waste your wait by remaining silent before God! Don’t waste your wait by failing to trust God! This is one of the most crucial seasons of your spiritual life. Your wait demands to be experienced and your pain demands to be felt and shared in your unique song of lament to God. So dive into the prayer of lament.* It has a unique beauty that only through experience you will discover.
This is how you wait. This is how you trust God when everything around you says to do otherwise. And when your wait is over, I hope you will be able to see how that the Lord has done for you and in you during this season.
* Study the Psalms such as Psalms 13, 142,143 and Lamentations 1-2. For more on the prayer of lament, see Dark Cloud, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament by Mark Vroegop