Pastor John Anderson
Learning To Lament
"Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men." - Psalm12:1
I love life! I love the joy of waking up every morning and facing the day and hitting new challenges, meeting new people, and watching God work in my life and the lives of others! It is a privilege to be alive and to serve the Lord!
There are seasons in all of our lives when that bounce in our step seems to fade and we face trials and situations that place us under a heavy burden. When I first started in ministry, I was full of life and vigor and believed there was nothing greater in the world to do than serve the Lord! (I still believe that today!) When negative circumstances would come my way, my coping mechanism was to always say to myself "This is just the devil trying to discourage me and keep me from victory in Christ." That was mostly true. But the older I got and the more I pastored and served our congregations, the more I realized that sometimes you cannot Zig Ziggler your problems away with a positive quote or a quippy line.
Burdens are real. Trials can last for a protracted period of time. There are seasons of loneliness, darkness, and yes, depression that happen in the life of really great people. I began to realize that if I was going to really help people, I could not just give a one-liner and move on.
Then it was my turn. I went through a protracted season when the burdens and pressures of ministry began to take a toll in my own life. So much so that I came to a place that I thought I needed to enter the business world and work full-time traveling for a large pharmaceutical company repping their products in Europe. I was lonely, discouraged, and under immense pressure. I was waiting on the Lord to feel sorry for me and just make all my problems, headaches, and trials disappear. It did not happen. I had no idea how to cope with the feelings, emotions, and discouragement that was in my heart daily. The darkness would not lift. This was brand new territory for me. I kept a brave face, but I was cowering with fear inside.
I have always encouraged people "Open God's Word, it has all the answers." So I took my own advice and began to read the Psalms. I discovered during this season the Lament Psalms. Lament is a major theme in the Bible and particularly in the Psalms. To lament is to express deep sorrow, grief, or regret. The psalms of laments are beautiful poems or hymns expressing human struggles. The psalms of lament comprise the largest category of psalms, they make up one third of the entire book of Psalms! These psalms are prayers that lay out a problematic case to the Lord and then request for His help. Some of these are national, but most are personal. Martin Luther extolled the Lament Psalms above all others. In fact they were the foundation for much of his writings.
These psalms follow the pattern of suffering at the beginning and glory at the ending! They typically start with complaining and negativity at the beginning and end with praise and victory at the end. Here is the crazy thing, there are tons of these psalms! As I read these Psalms I slowly began to learn, God does not always lift our burdens quickly. In fact, the more I prayed it was almost as if God's Spirit would speak to me that this was good for me! Almighty God allows a burden to rest on us for a while so that we can learn to lament. I began a 6 month journey of lamenting. I would pour my complaint out to my God, claim His promises, and wait for the victory. It was during this season that God deepened my faith, strengthened my hands, and prepared me emotionally for greater challenges that would lie ahead.
Fast forward 9 years. Have the pressures of life, ministry, and responsibility decreased? Absolutely not! They are greater than they have ever been! The Lament Psalms are my open secret! They have become "my songs in the night." These psalms have kept me in some of the darkest hours. I thank God that He does not always lift my burdens. It is through these burdens and sorrows that I am learning to lament. I am learning to lean on Him. I am learning to trust His good hand and timing in my life.
Friend, I can tell you from personal experience, these psalms have saved my life! Our culture tells us that we deserve to always be happy. I don't buy that. It is during the times of heaviness and discouragement that I have seen the face of my God through His Word more vividly than any other time. We must stop trying to *medicate, entertain, sleep, and overindulge our way out of seasons of lamenting. Turn to the Word of God, allow the Holy Spirit of God to let the lament psalms become our mainstay. You will find they will deepen your soul, stabilize your emotions, and give you a high view of your God! Today, learn to lament! Embrace your sorrow and allow the Word of God to do a transforming work in your life today!
*Disclaimer - I am not telling anyone to come off of your medication if you have a chemical imbalance or a medically evaluated issue that require the use of legal medication. I wholly agree that there are dear people who need medication in order to function. Lamenting is still for them!