Learning to Lament

 

“A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance”

~ Ecclesiastes 3:4

 

 

There are commands in the Bible such as Philippians 4:4, commanding us as believers to “rejoice in the Lord always,”and in case we missed it the first time Paul adds an echo, “again I will say, rejoice.” Yet, there are also commands such as Romans 12:15, to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

Here is the unique collision, to rejoice and to weep, when needed. Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes that there are seasons for both. How do we do this well? When we need to weep and long to weep how do we weep/ mourn well? We lament.

In a recent article on Desiring God, lament was described as:

Lament is God’s people desperately crying in faith to their Lord until God shows himself to be the faithful one he has promised to be.

Webster dictionary defines lament as:

to express sorrow, mourning, or regret for often demonstratively

We see examples of a holy lament throughout the Bible, there is a whole book dedicated to this theme, the book of Lamentations. Also throughout the Psalms we see example after example of lamenting before the Lord. Psalms such as 142, where we see David crying out to the Lord as he is hiding in a cave. To lament is to be honest before the Lord with where you are, how you are hurting, how you are struggling to see Him rightly. To lament rightly is to in a holy manner weep before the Lord.

In an article for the ERLC (Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission), looking at Psalm 142 they list out four points in learning to lament:

  1. Turn to God
  2. Cry for Help
  3. Speak the Truth
  4. Trust the Lord

I have learned that in lamenting I must:

  • Be Honest with Myself: I must admit, I don’t like this step, perhaps because I am a dude and we don’t like trying to figure out our hearts. However, in order to lament rightly I must look into my heart, be honest with myself, with how I am feeling and deal/ wrestle with it not suppress it.
  • Be Honest with the Lord:Once we are honest with ourselves we can then be honest before the Lord. Lets be honest, He already knows, how we are feeling, He knows how we are wrestling, He knows our concerns and hurts more than we know. So tell Him all of it. He is big enough to handle it. If you are frustrated, tell Him. If you are hurting tell Him. He already knows!
  • Focus on the Lord:The point of lamenting rightly is to pour out our hearts before the Lord. In focusing on Him, we are turning to the One who already knows what we are going through and to the One alone who is able to hear and answer. Who alone is able to heal the hurting, answer the searching, and restore the broken.
  • Remember Who He is: Once we have set our focus on the Lord it is then that we begin to remember who He is. That He is good and does good (Romans 8:28); that when we cast all our burdens on Him for He will sustain us (Psalm 55:22), that it is He alone who satisfies the longing soul (Psalm 107:9), that we can wait on Him and trust on Him for He is our refuge (Psalm 62:8), that when we wait on the Lord it is He who restores our strength (Isaiah 40:31), and that it is the Lord who helps us, strengthens us and upholds us (Isaiah 41:10).

Lamenting rightly reestablishes my trust in the Lord, taking my eyes off self and placing them onto Him who is able to do abundantly more than I could ever ask (Ephesians 3:20). It is here that I am able to begin to rejoice again in the Lord, no matter my circumstances.


Lament is a cry of belief in a good God, a God who has His ear to our hearts, a God who transfigures the ugly into beauty. Complaint is the bitter howl of unbelief in any benevolent God in this moment, a distrust in the love-beat of the Father’s heart.

~ Ann Voskamp

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Come to the Throne of Grace

I recently picked up again  The Power of Prayer in a Beleiver’s Life by Charles Spurgeon, it is a top three read all time for me. This morning I was reminded of the hope we have in prayer, that we  do not approach a Priest that is unable to sympathize with us; He sees us, He hears use and He knows what we are experiencing. On this Spurgeon writes:

And so, all the petitioners miseries shall be compassionated. When I come to the throne of Grace with the burden of my sins, there is One on the throne who felt the burden of sin in ages long gone by and has not forgotten its weight. When I come loaded with sorrow there is One there who knows all the sorrows to which humanity can be subjected. Am I distressed? Do I fear that God has forsaken me? There is One upon the throne who said, “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). It is a throne from which grace delights to look upon the miseries of mankind with a tender eye – to consider them and to relieve them. Come, then, you who are not only poor but also wretched, whose miseries make you long for death, and yet you dread it. You captive ones, come in your chains; you slaves, come with the irons upon your souls; you who sit in darkness, come forth all blindfolded as you are. The throne of Grace will look on you if you cannot look on it and will give to you, though you have nothing to give in return, and will deliver you, though you cannot raise a finger to deliver yourself.”

To the wanderer, the weary, the heavy-hearted the call this morning from the Throne of Grace is to come; as you are in your mess, in your hurt, in your despair and there you will find grace upon grace.

 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need ~ Hebrews 4:16


Quote taken from  The Power of Prayer in a Beleiver’s Life by Charles Spurgeon, Chapter One, page 24.

What to Say

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

~ Revelation 21:3-4

This morning as I laid in bed trying to wake, scrolling through Twitter, waiting for the snooze to go off and I began seeing the hashtag #PhilandoCastille, as I began to put together the story I cried out, “Lord not again,” not a day after #AltonSterling. Now tonight as I sit at my computer reading the reports of a sniper shooting in Dallas, my home, I find myself mourning and at a lost of words.

Honestly I have been trying to find words all day to say. This morning as I read the news, I probably began and deleted who knows how many tweets, trying to process all that is going on. Trying to understand all that is going on, praying for those directly affected and those indirectly affected. Praying for those close friends who are in bi-racial relationships and those who have so lovingly showed the Gospel to the world and have adopted from multiple races, wondering how the tension in America is and will affect them. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand it all, as a Mexican American who is considered a Caucasian, and  grew up in a city that was 90%+ Caucasian, race was never really an issue. But hear me on this, I am trying to understand and I am trying to grasp all that is going on.

I don’t understand it all, but here is what I know:

  • There is a great racial tension in America that hasn’t died and isn’t going away; it must be addressed.
  • There is a large population of people who are hurting and have scars going back centuries, and to combat the #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter is simply unloving and evil.
  • That as I read comments online and responses on social media to men and women I would consider leaders in the Church, who are African-American, there is a great racial tension in the Church today as well.
  • That the Church is to display the Glory of God in our cities.
  • A divided church cannot display the Glory of God in our Cities and to our neighbors.
  • That we are called to love, and loving those around us means sitting and listening, without telling them why they are wrong to feel how they do.
  • I know that men who were created in the image of God have lost their lives this week, and that should break our hearts.
  • That as I write this, five families have lost men who were sons, fathers, brothers, and husbands, and that those families will never be the same.
  • There is a large part of the population that will go to bed tonight and wake up tomorrow living in fear, pain, anger and hurt.
  • That we are called to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).
  • That our response to the command that we are to love has nothing to do with “others” and what they have done or their response to us, and has everything to do with the simple question of, will we be obedient?
  • That the current conditions of the world daily remind us that we are living in a Genesis 3 world and things are not how they were created to be.
  • That there is coming a day when the Lord will come back and make everything right.

I don’t know a lot, but I am seeking to learn. To my brothers and sisters who are hurting and walking in fear, I want to say I am sorry you are walking through this and that I love you and am praying; where I don’t fully understand please help me. I really want to understand because I love you.

Come Quickly Lord! Maranatha! 

Prayer Life Defined?

images“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.” 

~ Colossians 4:12

Several years ago I was working on an application to go on a mission trip to Haiti, and the question I struggled with the most was, “Describe your prayer life.” Part of the difficulty of this question was that I was currently having my prayer life rocked by Sprugeon’s “The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life” as the Lord was continually using Spurgeon to crumble up my small thoughts and ideas on prayer and punt them away.  Another difficulty was just how do you put into words your prayer life. If we are honest and you are like me there are times when our prayer life is like a mighty rushing river and at times when it is barely a stream making its way down the mountain.


How would you describe your prayer life?


For the past few years whenever I think of prayer, and reevaluate my current prayer life, I often think of this verse towards the end of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. I love the way Paul describes Epaphras’ prayer life as one that is always struggling on the Church of Colossae’s behalf.  Here we see that Paul has taken notice of Epaphras’ prayer life and has noticed that it is one of battle, and not simply for himself but for the Church of Colossae. Perhaps a better question for the mission trip application would be,


“How would others describe your prayer life?” 


Are we known to be prayer warriors? Do others know that when you say, “I’ll be praying for you,” that we mean it and will be joining in the fight in prayer on their behalf, or are they simply empty words we offer? As Piper says in Let the Nations Be Glad, “We cannot know what prayer is for until we know that life is war!” In this life as believers we are in a war and the enemy is not flesh and blood, but is spiritual (Ephesians 6:12) and as we battle we are to pray at all times (Ephesians 6:18).

As we put on the full Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) let us not forget to enter the battle in prayer at all times. For the sake of our local church, for the sake of churches in our cities and the greater Church worldwide, let us always be struggling on their behalf in our prayers.

 “True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that – it is a spiritual transaction with the Creator of heaven and earth” ~ Spurgeon 

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#PrayforYourPastor

“Must be nice to only work 3 hours a week!”

“What do you really do all day?”

“Oh you are a part-time pastor!”

With these statements and many more like them we reveal how difficult we feel that of being a pastor really is. After all we really only see them “at work” on Sunday’s and perhaps on Wednesdays, for an hour or two at a time; what do they do the rest of the week? Read the Bible? Play Golf? Fish? Sleep in? Who knows, while we are clocking in and out and putting in 40+ hours a week at our job, what is our pastor doing? So we kid with them about what they do all day, prehaps only as a joke or as a coverup when we really want to know.

As the son of a pastor, and someone who has been in ministry or close to those in ministry most of my life, can I beg you to pray constantly for your pastors, elders and deacons the Lord has placed as overseers and shepherds in your life. Theres a weight involved in being a pastor that is heavy and the burden for those people in their church that is unbearable at times. Your pastor isn’t a super-Christian that doesn’t face life’s difficulties, stresses, temptations and hurts. Your pastor needs wisdom, discernment, endurance and strength that can only come from the Lord if they are ever going to accomplish that which the Lord has called them too.

Some things to remember when wondering what your pastor does all day:

  • Thanks to the advance/curse of technology they are on call and reachable 24/7 – there is no “part-time” ministry
  • Rarely when someone says “Hey pastor can we talk” is it good news or to thank them
  • Pastors constantly step into the worse of life’s circumstances that are affecting the people of their congregation
  • They are not only trying to faithfully lead their families, but also a whole congregation of people
  • Bearing the weight of James 3:1
  • When they aren’t meeting with someone they are thinking of their next counseling session
  • The weight of reading, studying and preparing to teach the Word of God

A lot of this post comes from reading the following last night:

“From a variety of sources, ranging from the Fuller Institute to the Barna Research Group and Pastoral Care, Inc., we find these sobering numbers:

– 90 percent of pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week

– 80 percent believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families

– 90 percent feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands

– 80 percent of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged

– 90 percent of pastors say the ministry is completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry

– 50 percent feel unable to meet the demands of the job

– 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression

– 70 percent say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started

– 70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend

– 40 percent report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month

– 33 percent confess having engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church

– 50 percent of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living

– 70 percent of pastors feel grossly underpaid

– 50 percent of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years

– Only 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form”

~ From Jared Wilson in The Pastor’s Justification

I share these stats as a means to show the stresses and thoughts some of our pastors face.  And to ask us to constantly hold our pastors and staffs up before the Lord in prayer, asking the Lord to sustain them, encourage them and help them be faithful to their calling, that can only be completed by the Grace of God.

Your pastor loves you and is constantly thinking of you and the congregation, lets not neglect to lift them up in prayer as they faithfully lead us.

Be a Persistent Pray-er

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18 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’”And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

~ Luke 18:1-8

This probably my favorite passage on prayer, and the one I turn to most often when thinking through my prayer life. Because this passage gives us permission to continually come before the Lord with our request in persistence. Often times I feel that we neglect repeatedly bringing the same request before the Lord, either out of frustration of not having an answer quickly, or out of fear that we could be annoying our heavenly Father that loves us. But here we are welcomed to bring our request repeatedly before Him. The Lord ask:

7 “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?”

~ Luke 18:7

Who cry out to him day and night.


When is the last time we tried to wear out the ears of the Lord with our request? 


 

“Prayer can never be in excess!” ~ C.H. Spurgeon

At the end of this passage the Lord asks:

“When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”

~ Luke 18:8

Our continually going to Him with our request demonstrates our reliance on Him as the hearer and answerer of prayers. This act of continually going to Him with our request isn’t an act of annoyance, but of showing our reliance on Him as the only One who is able to answer; as well as shows our need to have Him hear and answer our request. Demonstrating our faith.

My encouragement in this passage is to never give up in bringing my request before Him. Trusting that He is a good Father who hears and answers the cries of children.

“Four things let us ever keep in mind: God hears prayer, God heeds prayer, God answers prayer, and God delivers by prayer!” ~ E.M. Bounds

Heading into the new year let us not give up on continually bringing our request before Him.