Where do we go when our hearts are heavy and our hands are empty? Where do we go when we’re “praised out”? What do we do when we can no longer lift our hands in jubilant worship? What do we do when dancing has departed and our only movement comes from our sobbing trembles? What do we do when a simple song of worship feels like a life-time worth of sacrifice? What do we do when we live in a state of numbness? What then?
What do we do when the only questions we can ask are : Where were You? Why? Where are you?
In these dry and dark places, in these times we don’t need a trite “one-liner”. Save those for the car-bumper stickers. One-liners are true enough but sometimes we can’t acknowledge those truths until we’ve gone to the darkest place; until we’ve spoken out to God our disappointment, our grief, our anger. He’s our father after all. He knows the stuff in our hearts. And He’s close to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit . To shortcut to a place of compulsory joy is simply denial.
The bible calls this process lament. We need permission to speak the words of the psalmist and say:
With my voice I cry out to the LORD;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.
When my spirit faints within me,
you know my way!
Lament is a journey, a highway towards praise.
For after his lament , from the depths of a cave, David chooses to make a declaration of trust, of faith, in the character of God:
I cry to you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living
True worship is never about pretending before God, or others, that everything is ok, as if somehow it’s spiritually more mature. So when all around is failing, when life crumbles, when those I love are gone, still I will praise Him. But I won’t deny, I won’t pretend. I won’t say that all is well, when clearly it isn’t. I’ll choose lament as my path to praise. If we feel nothing, or deny our feelings when loss comes then we diminish the value of what’s been lost. So I’ll lament. I’ll leave the space in my life where there’s doubt, pain, loss, questions. I will leave the space and I will look for Him.
And will we choose to lament for, and with, those who’ve lost loved ones or those who are hanging on by a thread? By God’s grace, will we try? Will we wait? Will we wait and journey with them to that place of declaration of trust, however long that may take? God-praise from the wounded, the declaration of faith from the grief-stricken, is a precious pearl. When those declarations are uttered will we still be right there beside them?