Lament: Pure Worship

Fire Season
Fire Season

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.”

-Graham Cooke

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.

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11 thoughts on “Lament: Pure Worship

  1. So true that great pressure makes beautiful valuable gems. God is making us into jewels of great beauty but we need to embrace the process. (Many times I don’t value the process and need an attitude adjustment.)

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  2. Amen. When sad, be sad. When joyous, be joyous. Hiding either one from, as you say, God or people, serves no one and no purpose. Lamentation as worship or prayer–this is a new concept to me. I’ll be meditating on it. Thanks for your good thoughts as always.

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    1. It’s relatively new to me too. Feel sad and praise God, realizing He weeps with you as he wept with Mary and Martha’s in their grief when their brother died. I also wonder if one of the points of the story of Jesus asleep in the boat while the disciples panicked in the storm is not just that Jesus had the power over the wind and waves, but that He was in the boat with them.

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    1. That I might know Him…
      I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! (Philippians 3:7-11)

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  3. Haha! Yes! I encountered God in a profound way while mourning. His presence moved in among my anger, confusion, tears and guilt – not to change or repress that grief, but to be there through it. How could I keep from worshipping Him even there? Joy and sorrow mingled in a way that is difficult to articulate. Oh how He loves it when we look at Him.

    -TL (pennies’ wife)

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    1. You are so precious to Him, TL! May the Lord comfort and wipe away every tear. May the God of justice restore everything the enemy of our souls has stolen or destroyed. May you, like Job, be known as the one who has been doubly blessed.
      It is such an honour to count you as a friend.

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  4. rufus

    Thank you CP I’m sad so often because of great loss. But I don’t will it away because a sermon once taught me it is not immoral to have strong emotions. Sometimes it seems too much but before I let the enemy tempt me to wallow in self-pity, I begin to focus on the fact that despite being alone in my home, I am not really alone. Whenever I take my very real sorrow and heartache to Him his love lifts me. Jesus put a song in my heart . . . on so many sad occasions.

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    1. I hear you. Thankfulness and praise in these circumstances is a precious gift to God.

      Although we have seasons of mourning and sadness I don’t believe our loving Father meant them to become a permanent lifestyle. The Bible says it was for the joy set before him that Christ endured the pain and the Psalmist said he believed he would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Sometimes sadness is so familiar, like an old handmade comforter, that we grab wrap ourselves in it out of habit. For many years I assumed the role of designated mourner in my family. (That involved the death of five young children, and the 42-year old mother of three of those children and two houses destroyed by fire in the days before insurance.) I carried far too much pain for far too long. Not even Job mourned that long.

      I read that Jesus was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief, but I also learned that the Father anointed him with the oil of gladness far more than any other living creature. He sees the end from the beginning -and he has a good plans for you. He bore our sorrows and it is done. Now he sits at the right hand of the father, full of love and joy and gladness and he intercedes for us to be filled with the same.

      Hope in God, your glory and the lifter of your head. And when he comes along (and one day he will) and says, “If you want to be healed, now is the time. Pick up that ratty old comforter and walk,” just do it. Give him the pain and walk away. Let it go.

      God is good.

      Loving you to life, Rufus.
      Charis

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