The Substitution of Complaint for Lament

Sunday Evening Musing

lament 3

These are times when we should cry out our laments to God. Times when the heart is so raw because of the evil of this world, the heartache and brokenness of this world that nothing but a mournful, tear-filled shout at God can be both relief and the path to health.

The book of Habakkuk records one of the moments. And the psalms are filled with these moments. There are places in the psalms where the writer has exhausted all resources,

has lost all hope,
is surrounded on every side,
is filled with confusion and sorrow,
is broken over abandonment by friends,
suffering under debilitating disease,

where all he can do is cry out to God in an anguished lament for help and rescue.

It is cathartic. But it is something else as well. It is biblical and Hebraic.

lament 2 verticalIn Israel, I met a Jewish man who reminded me of the difference between Judaism and Islam. Islam means submission. There is no relationship with the Allah. There is only submission to his will.

But Judaism (and Christianity) are different. God is personal. Jacob wrestles with God at Bethel and gets a name change.  

“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Gen. 32:28)

“Israel” eventually becomes the name and the character of a people–a people that strives with God. To “strive with God” means many things but among them is this simple fact, to strive with God takes effort.

And that effort often takes the shape of thanksgiving, and praise, and worship but also questioning, and doubting, and believing, and conversing, and weeping. At times, it involves lament.

Lament is defined as the expression of grief and deep sorrow and pain that travels the ridge lines of despair.

One of the debilitating effects of the new age of Twitter™, FaceBook™, Instagram™, Snapchat™, LinkedIn™, etc. is that it makes it possible for all of us to pour out our complaints to one another rather than to God. Instead of crying, I mean really crying out to God (with tears and agony of soul), we take the short cut and cry out our frustrations and fears and anxieties to one another and end up short-circuiting our own spiritual development and our own path to wholeness.

Instead of taking our pain to God, we take the relief valve of horizontal complaint through various social media platforms and get a momentary release but ultimately no real help. But real help, real relief can only come from a vertical direction. We must look up. We must look to Him.

But we don’t.

Social media is too immediate, too everywhere, too easy, and so we truncate our own spiritual development by leaning on media rather than the everlasting arms of our God and Savior.

Note, I’m not pointing the finger at you. I’m guilty of this too. I think it is a systemic problem in the internet age. And it’s something I think we, the Church in America, need to recognize.

Recently, a friend recommended a book that I think is going to help me on my journey. If you would like to read along with me, I am going to read The Joy of Missing Out by Christina Crook, beginning January 1. Maybe you could get it for Christmas for yourself and join me in the journey.

4 thoughts on “The Substitution of Complaint for Lament

  1. Another volume is “Rejoicing in Lament” by Todd Billings. On order and to be delivered tomorrow but I was able to read the intro and Chapter 1 on my Kindle. That sample whetted my appetite.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When you are fighting the darkness in your own soul …
    When you are fighting the shadows from which you can’t seem to escape …
    When you are confused and broken-hearted over some failure …
    perceived or real
    your own or someone else’s
    When you are dissatisfied with life
    or yourself
    or someone else
    or your situation …
    When the weapons against the darkness that used to work don’t work anymore …
    Biblical lament, crying to and AT God is the path your heart must traverse.
    And you won’t be alone when you do.


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