Sometimes, there are not words strong enough to express the pain we feel. There are seasons of life that don’t have simple solutions; times when we are overwhelmed by feelings of despair and helplessness. Financial stress, sickness, untimely deaths, grief and relationship breakdowns are situations that can leave us feeling confused and alone.
But sadly, in addition to all of the usual feelings of sadness and isolation experienced in difficult times, Christians experience an added layer of difficulty: guilt and shame for feeling upset in the first place.
Christians are often unsure how to find an honest expression of their faith in the midst of difficulty and stress.
Disappointment and grief can provoke some big questions: If God is good, how can he allow bad things to happen? Why should I pray when it feels as though God is silent? Sometimes Christians feel shame for asking questions like these because it doesn’t seem like questions people of faith should be asking.
This guilt and shame is only made worse, when we attend a church service and the songs being sung are about the goodness of God and the victory we can find through our faith in him…. but there is an absence of lament.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe God is good and I have felt his strength holding me together in difficult times. There is a place for songs of praise and thankfulness, but if there is no place for lament, how do Christians who are suffering join in from a place of honesty?
Sadly, if we don’t make space for people to express their pain and disappointment with God, we deny them the full expression of their faith.
When we are suffering, we need to know that there is still a place for us within the community of faith. We need the assurance that faith and struggle are not in contradiction with each other.
While lament may be near absent in many churches on Sunday morning, there are numerous passages in the Bible that describe great emotional pain and honesty.
You only need to flip through Lamentations, Job, Jeremiah or the Psalms to find some needed assurance that you are not alone in your struggle. It doesn’t get much more honest then the psalmist in Psalm 88: “You have taken from me friend and neighbor—darkness is my closest friend” (v.18). Or listen to the honesty of the author in Lamentations: “See, Lord, how distressed I am! I am in torment within, and in my heart I am disturbed” (Lam 1:20).
The honesty of these writers, gives us needed assurance that when we struggle, we too can offer our uncensored pain to God—knowing he can handle it.
Adversity and hardship are isolating enough on their own, without the added shame of feeling we “shouldn’t” feel the way we do. We can express our pain and disappointment to God without feeling we are betraying our faith. And we can rest knowing that God can handle our pain and our struggle.