“Churches should be the most honest place in town,
not the happiest place in town.”
– Walter Brueggemann
The 11-year anniversary of the death of my courageous boy, Brave (You can watch our film here), has me thinking of the art of lament.
Why should we engage in our pain? Why talk of suffering? What is lament and why is it so important? Isn’t God Sovereign and we should just trust and move on? These questions and many others come into thought when we begin to engage both God and grief.
As authentic gospel followers, our life is a constant call to live in the tension of the death and resurrection of Christ. Do you know Christians who are all resurrection? You know the type, all smiles, never have had a bad day, “God is good all the time, all the time God is good.”, type of Christian? I literally want to dig my eyes out with a spoon when I hear these platitudes. But in reality, they are not wrong (I am just cynical), they are just not fully right. The resurrection is just as true as the crucifixion and for us to live authentically we must engage both. If you run into people who are all doom and gloom that is not true either, Jesus is not in the grave. Both extremes, death, and resurrection are equally true and must be held simultaneously.
How do we honor both truths? How do we live with our integrity and hold the truth of both worlds? We must live and speak the truth because God is truth and the more authentically and honestly we can live into truth, the more fully we experience God.
Psalm 44 is a psalm of communal lament. Israel is in a national crisis. The people expected God to show up and help, but he didn’t. The psalmist mentions how they have always put their trust in God, but now God has,
- “rejected us and abased us”…
- “you have made us like sheep for the slaughter”…
- “sold your people for a trifle”…
- “made us a taunt…a byword…a laughingstock”
The writers of this particular Psalm didn’t hold back, they are teaching us even now, that God can handle the fullness of our humanity. When is the last time you took God on? I mean really brought it, not holding anything back, but bringing your full grief, rage, hatred, and desperation to a God you desperately need and want nothing to do with. Theologian Peter Enns describes it this way,
“Maybe we have lost the “art of lament,” where complaining to God is part of the deal. Maybe, rather than playing church and make-believe, a vital dimension of the spiritual journey is giving God an earful now and then. Maybe God can handle it. Maybe God likes it because it means we are being real and not fake. Maybe if you’re angry with God now and then, you’re normal. Maybe that’s part of being the people of God.”
I am so glad God is not insecure like you and me. God is more interested in bringing the fullness of your heart and the authenticity of your voice than anything else.