Lamenting is a powerful expression used by some of the great prophets to petition God into getting them out of a long-term struggle.
Lament - a passionate expression of grief or sorrow
There is an entire book of the Bible dedicated to this type of unique prayer, along with countless Psalms that show prophets addressing the Lord boldly and honestly.
During an in-depth study using the book “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller, I was humbled by a chapter that solely focused on this very topic. It helped me to realize how I was cheating God out of a real, honest conversation about the things that I am currently unhappy with. Here’s a few points from our study which stuck out to me.
When You Don’t Lament You Lie to God
As human beings, we do not live in a constant state of euphoria and joy, unless we do a lot of drugs. We are going to end up in struggles, sometimes ones that are long-term, and will feel an overwhelming sense of frustration and depression. We need to take these feelings directly to our Heavenly Father and not tuck them away. We also need to present them in an honest way and not sugarcoat or downplay our problems.
God cares, and He wants to see us fully put our trust in him by totally being ourselves in His presence. He knows when we are lying or trying to put on a show, so we need not take that approach towards prayer anymore.
Don’t Downplay Your Struggles
Christians often downplay their struggles or feel like they are not significant enough to take to prayer. But to be honest, if you feel depressed, you are probably depressed. And the same thing goes for anger and frustration. The reason really doesn’t matter at that point.
If you are in a dead end job and are dying to get out of it, or if you’re unemployed for a long stretch or battling an annoying health issue, God wants to know that you’ll come to Him honestly and not attempt to handle it using your own methods. When we don’t go to him it ends up leading to cynicism, and the long struggle makes us start to believe that God is never going to come through for us.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Other People
Again, a struggle is a struggle. It doesn’t matter if your neighbor is going through something you perceive to be worse. If you feel that you need God to give you breakthrough somewhere, then you need to start demanding it from him. The Bible includes so many promises that we will often doubt or forget if we give up on communing with him because we think our issues are not as bad as another person’s.
We cannot play the comparison game in any part of our life. Just like Joseph, David, Jesus, Esther and Sarah, there is a breakthrough coming. Now, that doesn’t mean that we are going to be millionaires or embrace some type of prosperity Gospel thinking, but God has shown in His Word time and time again how he comes through for his children, even if it takes decades.
You Can Trust God and Lament
When David was praying and fasting fervently after he was told by the prophet Nathan that his child would surely die, I very much doubt he lost his faith in God. In fact, the praying and fasting were signs that David was very much trusting in his Heavenly Father despite the circumstances. He ultimately did lose the child, but God eventually provided him with other ones and even restored his kingdom after it was usurped by his son Absalom years later (2 Samuel 18:33).
God would put David through long-term hardship, oftentimes to chasten him and make him more like Jesus (Psalm 6). This process was likely expedited by David’s steadfastness and ability to take all of his problems to the feet of the Father. Christians often say that lamenting is not Christ-like because it makes us seem ungrateful or untrustworthy, but it’s actually the opposite. If we fake our emotions to our Heavenly Father we are robbing Him of an authentic relationship with us and robbing ourselves of getting the answers to prayer that we’re literally dying for.
Cynicism Will Replace Lamenting
When you refuse to tell God you’re angry, you’ll often hold it in, and then hold it against Him. This is something the Israelites did in the dessert when they were heading to the promised land (Jeremiah 2: 5-8). They were no longer concerned with the promises made by God and had stopped reaching out to Him. Instead, they just complained and doubted. They became cynics and when offered Godly advice, they’d probably just laugh it off.
I personally have been through three periods of unemployment in the last four years. I would often ask God for a job, but when I got upset about the search, I usually just complained to other people or told them that it was never happening. My heart had gotten hard and I didn’t think God cared about my job situation. It was a slippery slope, but thankfully books like Miller’s helped give me a better grip on how I should relate to God when I’m frustrated.A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World