Do you have children? If not, I want you to imagine someone that you love very much. Now imagine them as a child. If you do have children, imagine them as infants. So precious, awkward, soft, and innocent.
Now I want you to imagine that child in an orphanage. They’re probably lying in a crib with another infant. Maybe they’re bored or hungry or uncomfortable. The workers could be very loving but there’s only so many of them and there are so many more children. Your child doesn’t even bother to fuss.
Does your heart break for this child? Don’t you just want to run up to them, pick them up, gently stroke their face, whisper to them sweetly and then give them whatever they need?
This is the image I have haunting me daily. My daughter could be alive already and if she is, she could be sitting in an orphanage a half a world away. She is there. I am here. All that’s between us is red tape. (Aaand the world’s largest ocean but ironically that’s nothing compared to the tape.)
I want so desperately to hold her and love on her. I want to do all of the things that Mamas do. I want to hear her coo and cry and do all of the things that children do. But I can’t. I feel a very real pain in my chest as I consider this.
This isn’t a political post. I’m not going to get into “the system” and the “red tape” and so on. Rather, this post is written from my soul to yours. Even if you have never known the heartache that I am experiencing, you have experienced heartache nonetheless. You’ve known despair. You’ve known helplessness. If you’re human, you know my pain.
God knows my pain too. When he came to Earth in the form of a man and then was beaten, mocked and nailed to a cross, he felt despair in its most gruesome form.
But this post isn’t about that either.
I’m going to level with you: It’s easy for me to forget that God knows my pain. In fact, I’m going to go even further and admit that this has nothing to do with my memory and everything to do with my comprehension. It feels impossible for me to understand that God really did experience despair and suffering. I mean, he knows everything and so he knew it would be ok in the end so it couldn’t have been that bad right? Oh Lord, forgive me for that confession!
I don’t know everything. But I know that I will hold my daughter someday. I know that she will be here and happy and healthy someday. However, that knowledge doesn’t numb the pain that I am feeling NOW. Pain is an experience of the soul, not of the mind.
So here’s what this post is about: crawling to God on your hands and knees, spewing your ugly at him, and letting him hold your raw and aching heart. Connecting with him on a soul, not cognitive, level. I’m talking about lamenting.
gerund or present participle: lamenting
mourn (a person’s loss or death).
“he was lamenting the death of his infant daughter”
- express one’s deep grief about.
- express regret or disappointment over something considered unsatisfactory, unreasonable, or unfair.
Lamenting is an expression of our darkest and deepest pain. It is the
irrational, child-like temper-tantrum of our soul that doesn’t want to be rationalized away. It is a part of the human experience and we needn’t be afraid of it. God honors this part of us. Job had everything but his life taken from him and he cried out to God in desperation. When God arrived at the end of the story he commended Job for his honesty. He turned toward God during his time of despair. God was pleased with his lament.
Many of us know the story of Job. We’ve read the Psalms and Lamentations… we know that many honorable believers are honest and raw before God. Yet, so often we are afraid to do the same. We sternly hush that temper-throwing child within. We tell ourselves that we don’t need to feel what we are feeling because of this reason or that reason. We are so afraid of being sucked into a a vortex of despair that we bury those feelings down deep. Often covering them with the standard colloquialisms of the Christian faith.
“Don’t worry, it’s all in His plan.”
“We can’t always understand what He’s doing but He’s working!”
“If He brought you to it, He’ll get you through it!”
Here’s the problem with those phrases: they assume that it was God intention for us to feel the pain that we are feeling. Now, sometimes, God may bring us to a place of suffering but I think it’s important to remember that suffering was NEVER in God’s original plan. His original plan was the Garden of Eden. We were to have perfect unity and peace in relationship with Him, each other and creation. It was going to be awesome. Then… sin came into the picture and tainted everything. God grieves this. He grieves that we are not in perfect union with Him. In fact, the whole Bible is a story about how He is redeeming that broken relationship.
And that’s exactly what He wants from us. He wants a REAL relationship. Think about it this way, would you consider your marriage a healthy one if you could never complain or cry or express frustration with your spouse? Do we want our own children to come to us with their heartache? Of course we do. God wants the same of us. He wants ALL of us. Not just the happy, hopeful, loving parts… He wants us to bring our sad, dark, angry parts as well. How can He shine light into the darkness of our souls if we don’t even give him access to it?
By bringing ALL of ourselves to God, we are worshipping Him. We are worshipping Him because we are saying:
- God you are STRONG enough to handle my pain.
- God you are SMART enough to know that this is only one part of who I am.
- God you are LOVING enough to accept me just as I am.
- God you are CAPABLE of understanding why I feel the way I do.
- God you are SAFE enough to share my ugly parts without fear of rejection.
- God you are GRACIOUS in your expectations of me.
I’m sure the list could go on. I hope you can see that by exposing our real emotions and not covering them up with the way we “should” feel, we are worshipping God. We don’t have to end every lamenting session with “…oh but God I know you are good and you’ll work everything out…” He doesn’t need that from you. He knows that about himself already. What he wants is our heart. Our WHOLE heart not just the joyful parts. After your lament, consider thanking Him for being ALL that He is in order that you can come to Him honestly. Sometimes you might not feel like thanking Him for that and that’s ok. Don’t be something you are not. God knows what is real and what is fabricated. Tell him you are having a hard time being grateful. Be real.
The truth is, if we truly want God to sanctify us, we have to be willing to expose our ugly parts to Him and to ourselves. We have to stop doing what we “should” do and start being authentic. When we continue to do what we “should” do, we are fooling ourselves into thinking we are better off than we are.
For example, here’s how a “should” conversation with God could look coming from me:
“God, I am so thankful I can come into your presence. I would like to ask that you please protect our daughter in China. Keep her safe. I pray that you will give us your peace. I love you Father. Amen.”
Here’s my real prayer:
“God, what the heck? Our daughter could just be alive over there and I can’t get to her?! I just want to hold her so desperately. I want to care for her. I hate that she’s over there. I hate that you’ve called me to something that is so difficult. I don’t think I can do this. I feel so helpless. God, you are all I have. Please protect her. I can’t do this without you.”
See how the second prayer brought me to a place of brokenness? Well, if you can’t see that I wish I could show you the lump in my throat. I am broken. This adoption process is requiring a lot of vulnerability with God and it’s very hard to endure. The verse that keeps coming to my mind and helps me to continue in this state of broken honesty is this:
“My grace is sufficient for you. My power works best in your weakness…” 2 Cor 12:9
Consider that by being weak and broken in front of God we are exalting Him. We are admitting our brokenness not through a stale confession but through a living expression. We are acknowledging His strength by giving Him our weakness. This is why lamenting is worship.