This past Tuesday I had the chance to see Rend Collective at a church about an hour from our house. I can confidently say I have never been invited by the lead singer to join the band in an Irish jigg – but something about a guy with an Irish accent that has a lot of energy makes you want to join in! So there I was, with easily a thousand other people, arm in arm, singing and laughing and having what he called “Irish church”! It was actually kind of fun! (but don’t expect me to be seen doing that on my own, mind you….)
After countless songs full of joy and celebration, confetti cannons and a bubble machine (I’m serious), he then did something I did not expect: a song of lament. I appreciate the story that led the group to write it. Yet I appreciate even more the statement the lead singer made, which is probably more true than we realize: There are often many people who come to concerts and may enjoy the music and honestly be trying to worship, but because of the weight of things they are carrying in their season of life, the music rarely expresses the honestly of their true feelings.
I am sure many of you have felt that way in church too, at some point or another, havent you? We are taught to offer a sacrifice of praise, we are taught that to worship when things are hard is beautiful and part of the essence of faith. I would not disagree with either statement. Yet to deny the reality that sometimes we feel more like the psalmist (or Jesus) in crying out “God where are you?” is to be disengenuous, to miss part of the humanity of faith, which is well represented not only in passages of scripture but also in the rich history of our faith.
I am reminded of when my friend Marnie spoke of lament a few years back at our women’s retreat. Lament, she said, was a lost element and something misunderstood. To lament is to mourn before the Lord over all the things that are not right in the world, to be honest about the pain they bring…. yet to thrust our hope on His ultimate promise that one day, He will make things right. When that hardship and pain become more personal and stretch into longsuffering, that promise can seem too far off, and we have the choice to either walk away or turn to God in a way that may take more than we think we have to give. Yet talk to anyone who has clung to Jesus in those times, and you will hear their faith grew in ways they never could have expected until they were there.
“Lord will you weep with me? I don’t need answers, all I need is to know that you care for me. Hear my plea. Are you even listening? Lord I will wrestle with your heart but I won’t let you go” ( lyrics copyright Rend Collective, “Weep with Me”)
Part of honest faith is to own up to these moments in our lives, and to wrestle with them until we find ourselves remembering that He is there, that He is for us, and to rest in the arms of our brothers and sisters when we need their strength. It’s easy to understand how we can be the fragrance of Christ when we are full of joy, or full of faith and positivity, but I know that in those moments when things are their hardest, when we can still cling to the One we know loves us deeply, that fragrance is still there.
So, my friend, if you are facing hard things right now, I would encourage you to find a way to put words to your lament. God is big enough to handle it, I promise.
If you know someone facing hard things….. Yes, pray, and bring them before the God who loves them and is walking beside them even if they cannot believe it. But know that your faithfulness to them will often speak louder than any bible verses sometimes, so don’t feel like you have know just the “right” thing to say. One of the best things you can do is just be there for them!
Amen and amen.