A Study of Lament: The Solution

{read the rest of the series by clicking here}

The previous posts can be condensed very generally into three statements:
The need in pain = His presence.
The problem = where is His kindness?
The solution = I  You (My problem  who He is).

If the answer is the presence of God, there is a sense in which we can do nothing, only wait for Him. However, there are still things that can be done, especially in the time of “waiting,” before the vav comes, before change happens. It is a season of waiting, and yet it is not a season to be idle. Many all you can do is go to a counselor or just “get over it.” And there may be times when that is the wisest counsel. But first we must go to Him and to His word.

I know that when we are sorrowing, we cannot imagine helping others because we are overwhelmed by our own struggles. But I also know that it is often a good thing to do, because it brings us out of ourselves. Not only that, but Isaiah 58:9-11 makes it clear that in pouring out for others, you will be filled. You may not have much to give at the moment. Or you may find that already God is using what you have been through to help others, and in the process, bring you joy.

But there is one thing that is greater, and that I have seen at work in myself, others, and the Bible. We remember the sorrows of the prophet Jeremiah, and of David, Jesus, Job, and others. But often overlooked is is Elijah, who in 1 Kings 19 was so depressed he told God that he wanted to die.
Elijah is despairing. God comes, but He doesn’t answer Elijah’s questions. He doesn’t ease Elijah’s burden or say anything to soothe the turmoil inside.
He simply shows Elijah Himself.
And there is the answer, for what we do while we wait for the Holy Spirit to bring us to the vav, to a point of change.
Be still, and behold your God.

Even when you cannot feel Him, you can seek Him out. Remember what He has done in the past, seeing His faithfulness and love. Remind yourself of His mighty deeds, and there find His power to save. Read Isaiah or Ephesians, filling up on who He is. As you behold Him, you will find strength to hang on, perhaps still wondering at and questioning the mystery of your suffering, but trusting Him.

Even when you cannot believe it, remind yourself of truth. Truth will set you free from the lies of the devil. Truth will be your belt, holding it all together. Truth will allow you to have faith in God, because you will know even when you cannot see it, that God has been faithful in the past, and if God does not change, then that means He will be faithful again. And then that faith will be your shield, to extinguish attacks of the devil.

It seems so simple, and yet it is so powerful: Behold your God. His love, His power, His beauty, His faithfulness. The place I see all of that most clearly is Isaiah 40 – but I have written about that before.
Draw near to Him. Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord. Don’t be so busy you don’t have time to see Him.
Be patient with yourself. Let God work – wait, don’t rush it.
Lament, and find joy again – find Him even in the darkest night.
Remember that He was forsaken to. He understands. And not only does He understand, but He intercedes for us before the throne of the Father.

And what can I say to those of us for whom suffering is far away? Two things:
First, be prepared. One day you will be dealing with it. Know God well now and you will be well-equipped for later.

Second, care for those who are depressed and suffering. In his book, When the Darkness Will Not Lift, Piper writes about John Newton, who cared for William Cowper. Newton said that he had drunk deeply of God and was overflowing with joy for those who weren’t. Newton was able to invest in Cowper, reminding him of truth when Cowper couldn’t see it himself.
We may wonder if our “easy joy” rubs those who are suffering the wrong way. At times, I’m sure it does. But more often, I think it is something that can overflow from us into them. I have seen it happen, and have been told it was happening even when I couldn’t see it.
We may not always be able to persuade them of the truth, but we can still stand by them and not let them sink deeper into depression.
Those of us who find joy easy and suffering lacking may not be that way so that our lives can be easy, but to allow us to pour joy into those who cannot find it themselves. The length to which we are willing to come alongside them and share in their suffering shows our level of commitment and love for them, how much and how deeply we care for them.
Do be careful not to turn God into plain theology or try to reason out the suffering as Job’s friends did. Don’t speak just to speak. Be silent if you need to, but be with them. Remind them of truth, and hold them up when they are sinking. Tell them who God is when He seems to be gone from them. Love them in every way you can, be it meals, phone calls, hugs, babysitting, silence, or anything else. Give hope to them when it seems to them they have none. Be patient with them. Let them talk. Don’t bash their feelings, but help them focus on the truth.
Behold Him, and then help others behold Him when He seems far-off, just as God did for Elijah, and Newton did for Cowper.

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