Biblical Lament- The Life-Changing "C's" to Remember during Times of Crisis
This week has been a very difficult and very significant week. It’s been a week of much pain, sorrow, heartache, confusion, bewilderment. It’s been challenging. I can’t help but think how much I hate times like these, how much I detest these gut wrenching feelings. Words certainly cannot describe all the emotions one feels during these times. And honestly, as best I can/we can, we want to avoid these times as much as possible. But reality cannot be escaped. We as Bible believing Christians certainly know this to be true. God has stated so many times in His word that the results of living in a sin cursed world cannot be escaped. There will be no escape from crisis’ in this life. They are bound to happen. As soon as we enter into life, it’s not a matter of “if” we face extremely hard times, but “when”. In Pastors short video that he shared this week, he made reference to the verse that we should not be startled or surprised when fiery trials come. We know that because of sin, they will come. On top of that, we even know that they not only exist because of sin, they also are used to model us. Trials refine us. James 1:1-4
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
And 1 Peter 1:7
so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
And though we know these to be true, they often offer so little comfort to those that hurt, who mourn, who are in grief and we that are called bear one another’s burdens know so little on how to help during these times. We know we are to trust God, we know that we should help them to trust God but that’s not so easily done. When you know that the Bible says God is good but the experience that you are apart of isn’t showing that, it’s not a simply task to just trust God. It works against our very nature, our very flesh, our very human mind. This does not logically make any sense to us.
That is why today’s message will not be in 1 Corinthians. As a church and as a followers of God, can I tell you that God has not left you stranded with just a simple command to “just have faith” during hard times. God knew that in these times of great sorrow, we would need to be taught on how to go through grieve that will result in trust.
Today, I hope that this will be a great blessing to you as a church, to know that God has granted to us a way (a process) in which we can work through extreme trials, find hope, restore joy, and even live victorious through the pain.
That Biblical process is called Lament.
When we found out the news of Cait’s passing, I found myself instantly picking up as many counseling books, articles, and scriptures that I knew on this subject. Trying to soak up what God’s Word would want me to say on this. I read all of Ligon Duncan’s “When Pain is real and God seems silent” this week, then I turned to my counseling notes from Faith of Lafeyettes training and was refreshed in truths they taught, before finally coming to the book that has been most helpful in understanding this word called Lament. That book is entitled, “Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy.” Written by a Pastor during some of the most intense days in his life. When they lost multiple children and worked through difficult tradegies amongst their church family. I will be referring alot to this book during today’s sermon.
In his book, he defines
“Lament is the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness”.- Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy
In our dictionary, lament can be defined as a loud cry, a howl, or a passionate expression of grief. That’s part of it, however, in the Bible, lament is more than sorrow or talking about sadness. It is more than walking through the stages of grief. Lament is a prayer in pain that leads to trust.
You might think lament is the opposite of praise. It isn’t. Instead, lament is a path to praise as we are led through our brokenness and disappointment. It’s the space between brokenness and God’s mercy.
Christians affirm that the world is broken, God is powerful, and He will be faithful. Therefore, lament stands in the gap between pain and promise. - Dark Clouds
One of the most outspoken books in the Bible on the topic of lament is the book of Psalms. You may not know this but 1/3 of the Psalms are lament psalms. Out of 150 chapters… one third. Just think about that! A third of the official songbook of Israel wrestles with pain. Do you think it’s important to God? I’d say so. Look how much writing God has seen fit to include in His scriptures on this topic. It’s dirty, it’s messy but God knew our hearts and what we would go through and chose to include these sad laments so that people struggling today could find hope as the authors of these laments did during there days. Psalms is a great place to start.
Historically, Christians have loved the Psalms because they express our deepest emotions and put into words our most severe experiences.
We are gonna look at what the Psalms say on the topic of Lament. Consistent within the many lament Psalms, you will typically find 4 important elements to lament to help us go from brokenness to belief. These Psalms tell us how… how can we go from the hurt that I am feeling to trust back in God.
So today, we are gonna look at lament- and the 4 life-changing “C’s” to help us during times of Crisis. These four words all start with C so that we can easily remember them as we work through lament.
Let’s start by looking at Psalm 77:1-4
I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I. Cry Out
I. Cry Out
The first and foremost step, sound so easy but it really is not. The first step is simply to cry out to God. What makes this so hard to do. For one reason, it takes faith to pray.
In the book Dark Clouds, he says…
To pray, even with it’s messy words and tough questions is an act of faith. Some of us are afraid of crying out to God because it is too messy, too honest, too risky. But there’s something far worse: silent despair. Giving God the silent treatment is the ultimate manifestation of unbelief. Despair lives under the hopeless resignation that God doesn’t care, he doesn’t hear, and nothing is ever going to change. People who believe this stop praying. They give up.
If we even have a just a little faith, it requires that we pray. But even this is a hard task. Our faith has been shaken, our words we cannot even articulate, we are so filled with conflicting emotions, and just would rather do nothing. But if you really believe who God is, it starts with this task. Cry out.
In Psalms 77, the writer Asaph describes this tension as he is in lament. Listen again what he says.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
He’s praying, but it’s not bringing immediate comfort or resolution. His prayers, it seems, are just not “working”. Yet, he keeps praying. When are prayers, aren’t answered, keep praying.
Lament isn’t a quick fix. It’s not a say a quick prayer and your good. It’s a lifelong process. As you look through the Psalms, David is one of the primary contributors. His laments vary in circumstances and events of his life. Some of his Psalms were written in regards to his sins, others were written in regards to his enemies that were after him, others were about the conflicts in his home. The latter part of David’s life was tragedy after tragedy. He suffers the loss of his first child; his daughter Tamar is raped by her half-brother and David’s son, Amnon, who is then murdered by Tamar’s brother, Absalom. Absalom then betrays David by staging a coup against his father, and exiles him from the thrown. This is a small taste of the difficulties he endured.
His laments as you read them are not just one lament per life event. Several of his lament psalms were written about the same life event. This gives indication to us that we will go through a process of lamenting. Working through these thoughts over and over again, but this is Biblical and right.
To learn to lament, we absolutely must resolve to talk to God.
But what do we even say to Him? Asaph the writer of Psalm 77 confessed the same reality. Psalm 77:4
You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
In Romans, amongst the talk about sanctification, Paul tells the Romans about the suffering they will face. In chapter 8, we are given incredible theology and truth regarding the eternal hope we have in Christ. Promises like the present suffering is not even come close to compare what we have waiting for us in glory. Promises like being delivered from the bondage of corruption. Promises like knowing that good things evil result out of evil. But Paul detected that even with knowing these truths, we would still struggle immensely in the midst of our trials. And so he gives us these verses.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
GOD KNOWS & SEARCHES WHAT IS IN OUR HEARTS and with that knowledge, He intercedes for us. Giving us the words to say. But He still asks that we cry out to Him. One of those things that God is even gonna prompt you to do, is to bring your hurts before him.
This next word, is gonna surprise you, but as you look at the Psalms, you will see that it perfectly fits how the authors of Psalms lamented. After they cried out, they complained.
When you hear that word, it seems so anti-christian. What about verses in
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
These talk about being content during difficult seasons. We also learn in multiple places throughout scripture that we are supposed to give thanks and even praise God during these times. Think of Paul in Philippi when he was thrown into prison with Titus. They praised God. So how is it that we can complain and praise. These two are complete opposite of each other and we know that the children of God complained and grumbled against God in the wilderness and they were punished for it. Surely, this isn’t godly. We will get to all that in a bit, but this is the pattern we see in the Psalms.
What does it mean to complain. Our dictionary defines complaining the verb as “expressing dissatisfaction or annoyance about something.”
Now let’s look at some Psalms and see if that describes what they are doing.
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?
In this Psalm, we see David express dissatisfaction with God in 2 ways. He complains that God has left him. “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? He’s first accuses God of playing hide and seek.
The next thing, he accuses God of is not answering. “How long must I take counsel in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” David is asking God what to do but all he is left with is his own counsel which he knows not what to do and only leads to sorrow. In other words, David is saying, I’m struggle here God and your not answering. Where are you? What are you doing? I think many in times of difficulty feel this way.
But this isn’t the only Psalm that speaks this way. Here’s a few.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
One of the biggest Psalms lodging complaints to God is found in Psalm 88. Just look at this Psalm with me.
A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite. O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape; my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you. Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? But I, O Lord, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. O Lord, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless. Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me. They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together. You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.
That’s Psalm 88. There’s no hope, but alot of dissatisfaction with God. The amazing thing is. God put this passage in scripture. But it’s so ugly. It doesn’t paint a good picture of God. But it does paint a good picture of our hurting hearts. And from the rest of scripture, we know that God is good.
You might be saying, man if I talked this way about God, they must be deep in sin and a terrible Christian. Not at all. Consider the author of this Psalm. His name is Heman the Ezrahite. Heman is mentioned throughout the Old Testament as a man who led the people of God in worship, he is a poet-theologian par excellence. According to 1 Kings 4:31, Heman was one of the five wisest men in his generation. He was renowned for his depth, insight, and maturity. Yet, for Heman, all the lights had gone out. Despite all his prayers, it seemed his life situation only pointed to one thing. You God does not hear you. Psalm 88 is the picture of a godly man crying to the Lord in great suffering.
He’s not the only one though, think of David in Psalms, and Job, even as we mentioned Jesus himself quoting Ps. 22:1. Why have you forsaken me. When Mary and Martha cried to Jesus at the death of Lazarus in John 11, they even expressed their dissatisfaction with him, they lodged their complaint. Jesus, if you were here Lazarus wouldn’t be dead. But did Jesus scold them so saying this. No, in fact, he entered their grief with them. Jesus wept. Fully knowing that he would raise up Lazarus again, Jesus engaged in their suffering and wanted them to bring Him their innermost thoughts and even complaints.
See complaint reveal something in our hearts.
as the book mentions...
“If the psalmists had already decided the verdict-that God is indeed unfaithful- they would not continue to offer their complaint.” - Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy
They knew that God is the only answer and the only one that can do anything about it.
Godly complaints are good.
What is a godly complaint. In the book Dark clouds, he quotes a man named Todd billings who said, “Writers of laments and complaints in the Psalms often seek to make their case against God, frequently citing God’s promises in order to complain that God seems to be forgetting his promises. They throw the promises of God back at him.” They are recognizing the promises of God.
Why are godly complaints good then? Here are a few more quotes from the book that help us understand this
Doubts are better put into plain speech than lying diffused and darkening, like poisousness mists, in the heart. A thought, be it good or bad, can be dealt with when it is made articulate.
Honestly praying this way recognizes that pain and suffering often create difficult emotions that are not based upon truth by feel true nonetheless. Honest, humble, pain-filled questions are part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Through godly complaint, we are able to express our disappointment and move toward resolution. - Dark clouds
But here is the thing, we cannot camp in complaint. We must move on. It’s good to let it out out and tell God the hurts you feel but you cannot stay there. So you must move on to the next step and that is the third C… Cast your Requests.
III. Cast your Requests
III. Cast your Requests
We have before us a model of what it looks like to make requests. In Psalms 22, after expressing his suffering as well as his remembering of God, David brings his bold request.
But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
Notice how each request confidently calls upon God to act. How are we, so insignificant as we are, allowed to make bold requests to creator God? Who gave us any authority to demand anything of God? Jesus did. We are told to do so based upon the experience and compassion of Jesus Christ.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
It is because Jesus is literally understands the hurts we are going through and he is genuinely sympathtic towards us. No one can or I should even say, I know what your going through simply because no one person goes through trials the same way. Even if you experienced a super similiar situation, where you are at spiritually, how you deal with people, who’s involved, how they react, all of these make it impossible for someone to know exactly how you feel. All except Christ. Because He does know your inner thoughts even when you can’t speak and has experienced the pains of life even in a way we never will on his death of the cross. The truly innocent taking on the death of the sinner. And beyond that, he truly cares. And so we should as
casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
He wants us to call boldy on him. Make your requests known. When you look at the Psalms, you see how specific there requests were. Oftentimes our prayers are greater and more genuine when we are hurting. Pain has a way of awakening us to our need for God’s help because as we reflect on our situation, we realize our own powerlessness to control anything. Therefore our pleas become greater to a God who does indeed control everything.
Here are just a few different types of requests made in the Psalms.... all listed in the book...
Arise, O Lord (Ps. 3,17,79)
Grant us help (Ps. 60)
Remember you covenant (Ps.25)
Let Justice be done (Ps.83)
Don’t remember our sins (Ps.51)
Restore us (Ps. 80)
Don’t be silent-listen to me (Ps.28)
Teach me (Ps.143,90,86)
IV. Have Confidence
IV. Have Confidence
(synonyms include faith in, hope in, belief in, trust in)
This is where the authors of the Psalms arrive at. They arrive or affirm their faith in God. Psalm 13 is a great example of this in times of heart-ache. We see the writer’s lament journey. He cries out, complains, casts his requests before God, then we have this important word....
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
Did he perfectly believe in God? Did all His questions and prayers get answered. Likely not, but through lament of crying out in despair, lodging his dissatisfaction, then giving his requests, He was left with the final choice. Have confidence, have faith, trust. But how are we to have confidence? Even in this the Psalmists give insight to how we have confidence.... by remembering… Look what these Psalmists remembered.
A. Remember Who God is
A. Remember Who God is
In our Psalm 86:14-15
O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set you before them. But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
B. Remember What God has done
B. Remember What God has done
Psalm 77 shares with us what God did for the people of Israel. He didn’t doom them to slavery in Egypt. But He kept his word and in His time He delivered them. They spent 430 years enslaved there. But God heard their prayers and He delivered them. The writer of Psalm 77 chooses to end his lament Psalm by choosing to remember that God provided, God rescued, and God kept his promises. Abraham was without an heir. It took him 100 years before he had a son. This caused much grief in Abraham but God provided in his time. The world was promised a Savior who would save mankind. That was prophecied in the garden, looking at Genesis 3:15
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
And Jesus fulfilled that. Everyone of God’s promises, He has remained faithful too. I absolutely love the song that was played at the funeral this friday called Same God. Let me read the lyrics.
I'm calling on the God of Jacob Whose love endures through generations I know that You will keep Your covenant
I'm calling on the God of Moses The one who opened up the ocean I need You now to do the same thing for me For me, for me
I'm calling on the God of Mary Whose favor rests upon the lowly I know with You all things are possible
I'm calling on the God of David Who made a shepherd boy courageous I may not face Goliath But I've got my own giants
O God, my God, I need You (I need You Lord) O God, my God, I need You now How I need You now, yeah O Rock, O Rock of ages I'm standing on Your faithfulness On Your faithfulness
The ultimate answer to our personal suffering is Jesus.
A God who makes the world Himself becomes the victim of the world He created to redeem the world. He isn’t merely one who gives words, but He himself enters your suffering with you and makes promises that he has always kept. I will give you another comforter. I will give you rest. I will listen to your prayers. I will strengthen you. I will uphold.
Lament is how we bring our sorrow to God. Without lament, we won’t know how to process pain. Silence, bitterness, and even anger can dominate our spiritual lives instead. Without lament, we won’t know how to help people walking through sorrow. Instead, We’ll offer trite solutions, unhelpful comments, or impatient responses. What’s more, without this sacred song of sorrow, we’ll miss the lessons historic laments and lamentors are intending to teach us.
Lament is how Christians grieve. It is how to help hurting people. Lament is how we learn important truths about God and our world.
Lament is not a simplistic formula. Instead, Lament is the song you sing believing that one day god will answer and restore.
Aligning ourselves with God’s objectives involves aligning ourselves with His path to reach them. - WOL devo
If your having a hard time, still mustering a lament to God. I encourage you to memorize and say Psalm 13 to God. It’s only 6 verses but within it you’ll find these steps these C’s of lamenting. Cry out, Complain, Cast Requests, Have Confidence. My favorite part of Psalm 13 is it shows us the journey of how Paul and others were able to go through the lament journey and end with singing.
I’m gonna close by reading this last Psalm 13 and then will take the rest of our time this morning singing our laments to God as God has instructed us to do so in His word.
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. 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.