I have recently read A loving Life by Paul Miller. I will review it shortly, but before leaving the subject of laments (- I am going to unburden myself on burdens next) I want to share with you something that really struck me as Paul Miller looked at the life of Ruth and Naomi.
Quotations taken from page 48, 49 of my 2014 edition published by IVP.
“A broken heart that doesn’t lament can breed unbelief.” The writer urges us to lament, to let our heart be broken over something rather than get overwhelmed by it.
I get anxious about lament. Naomi troubles me. Is she a goody or a baddy? Paul Miller writes: “That doesn’t mean Naomi’s judgement of God is correct. God is good and just. He will answer her frustration with more goodness. Naomi was interpreting God through the lens of her experience. She has stopped in the middle of the story and measured God. A deeper faith waits until the end of the story and interprets experience through the lens of God’s faithfulness. Is this something we tell Naomi? No. It is what we tell ourselves. Good theology lets us endure quietly with someone else’s pain when all the pieces aren’t together…..A lament fits God’s heart perfectly. God loves an open, honest heart, no matter how broken by life, even if theologically incorrect.
I struggle with this – I want to correct, I want to point them to the end of the story – mainly because I so want to help them see how good God is. What wisdom we need.
I want to try and embrace the idea of lamenting rather than being overwhelmed. Overwhelm is a regular feeling with me. Overwhelm says I can’t cope, feels like it can’t cope, fails to cope and yet generally in my experience goes on trying to cope, or in extreme cases drops everything and runs away.
If only I went to my loving Father and lamented. Poor in spirit I would throw myself on him, not groan under the weight. “A lament puts us in an openly dependent position, where our brokenness reflects the brokenness of the world… A lament functions like a mirror of the world. What is broken or out of balance is not the lament but the world. Motivated by clear seeing, a lament reacts to the mismatch between hope and reality, between heaven and earth.”
How often do we go through the day effectively telling ourselves that we can do it, with some better time management, by applying the things we learnt at that conference, (or from that book!) after a good night’s sleep….. By God’s grace we can do so much, he gives us great works to do, but we can’t sort it all out.
There is great pain in my church family at the moment, there are situations that crush the air out of my lungs when I think about them. I know the situation is enormous, but at the same time I think if I just word an email correctly, or bake a cake or prepare faithfully for a bible study it will all be OK. It may well be that God will use my email, it is certainly right to be careful in how I word it, or that my cake will demonstrate love and help bring healing, and of course my bible study should be faithfully prepared, but the weight of the situation is not for me to carry, but to lament. To voice to God the wrongness of the situation, while resting in the rightness of his perfect will. To step back from my To Do list and my list of failings and recognise the world we inhabit for what it is and the impotency of human actions to build anything with our own labours. To give up trying to do what is not mine to do and patiently bear the yoke that is easy and light under his loving guidance.
Lord, help me to lament, help me to love and help me to have an ever deeper faith that interprets everything through the lens of your faithfulness. In the name of the one who calls the heavily burdened to himself, Amen.