The writers of the Psalms -especially David- were not afraid of emotion. They kept it real. Maybe that’s why I like the Psalms so much. Integrity is a quality I admire.
A beloved counsellor once confronted me for saying, “I shouldn’t feel this way.”
“Feeling emotion,” he said, “is no more shameful than feeling thirst. You don’t condemn yourself for being thirsty, do you? You can decide whether the thirst is something you can tolerate until a more convenient time to get a drink, or if you need to deal with it right now. You can analyze the cause of the thirst -are my blood sugars OK, or do I need to avoid salty food before long meetings- and make adjustments to behaviours in the future, but you don’t need to deny the reality of your thirst. You certainly would not be wise to ignore it forever. Emotions are like that; you can choose your response but there is no shame in feeling.”
So much of my life I was taught that I ought to hide sorrow. “Don’t bring everybody down.” “Sparkle, sparkle, little girl. Smile!”
Now I’m not talking about grumbling, complaining and sympathy seeking. I do believe you see what you focus on. I’m just talking about keeping it real and dropping the facade that everything is fine when it is not. The writers of the Psalms did not make a practice of speaking only of good times. They didn’t turn scripture around to make it say “speaking those things that are as if they are not.” They didn’t avoid other people -or God- when all was not going well and when they didn’t have an up-to-date “glorious testimony.”
But what they did do is take their pain and sorrow and turn it into worship. They lamented. They took what they had -their suffering- and offered it as praise.
It is in moments of excruciating pain and even deep personal regret that tragic heroes of stories and stage reveal insights that give us hope in the God who can change us into more than we thought we could be. The Bible honestly reveals the weaknesses of folks who struggled with faith and obedience in adverse circumstances. The Bible includes their failures. The Bible includes laments.
Only a person living a transparent life can write:
I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?’ As with a breaking of my bones, my enemies approach me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
And only a person living honestly has the ability to offer:
Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise him, the help of my countenance and my God. (Psalm 42)
His dark season did not last forever, and God restored, but Job, after all he feared came upon him, after all other possible sources of happiness had been lost, was in a position to offer the most refined, distilled, pure worship of all, “Though he slay me, yet I will trust Him.”
“Lamentation does not deny the existence of pain; it does just the opposite, in fact. It actually involves worshipping God with that sorrow. What are the circumstances of your life? Are you in the winepress of God, being crushed like a grape?…
If you are in mourning, you have the opportunity to worship in the most powerful way possible – lamentation. This worship isn’t done in order to have God remove the pain. It simply recognizes that God stands in the moment with us. Lamentation elevates God in the presence of our enemies.”
Sometimes it is in the place of our deepest sorrow that the diamonds and rubies of true joy, formed over time under great pressure, are found.
God is good.