Much has been said about the biblical perspective of suffering. You have heard it before that we are to rejoice in our sufferings. To consider it pure joy when facing various trials.
The practice of suffering, is slightly more nebulous. What is the day to day of suffering biblically? Is suffering biblically simply a case of reciting ‘God is good’ in our minds on an endless loop?
The Christian who suffers well does more than recall scriptures. The Christian who suffers well is encoded different. They have a unique expression that guides them through their pain.
The ninth hour
In Jesus darkest moment, while he hung on that tree, he cried out to the Lord: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew chapter 27, verse 46)
We see this same language in Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?” (Psalm chapter 22, verse 1)
Jesus used lamenting language to express his agony.
Learning to lament
Lamenting is how we can better express our pain.
Lamenting means describing in detail your feelings and your situation. Lamenting means expressing your confusion, grief, sorrow.
David describes his feelings.
“My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.” “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people.” “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.” (Psalm chapter 22, verses 2, 6, 14)
David details his situation.
“Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.” “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” (Psalm chapter 22, verses 12, 18)
Lament is giving words to the feelings of distance. David goes into deep detail about how he feels and how the situation appears to him. And as he does this, he completes the catharsis.
This lament is also intermingled with a remembrance of God’s character.
“Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises.” “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one.” “For dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations.
(Psalm chapter 22, verses 3, 24, 28)
The function of the book of Psalms is that of a prayerbook for people in exile. Helping give words to their inner agony. The same function is active today. The book of Psalms can give us language to express the inexpressible.
The automatic response for many of us in times of travail is to go into ‘request mode.’ ‘God grant me this, God help me with that.’ Requests are great, God is sure to answer. Yet, to fully express and regulate our pain requires more than requests.
Focus on God
If you look at Psalm 22, you will notice how little requests there are. David focuses his energy on going into detail about his situation, how he feels and focusing on God’s character.
Jesus was honest about the way he felt when he was burdened by humanities sins. He didn’t deny his pain and say, God is good, God is good. He said why God have you forsaken me.
Let us respond like Jesus and voice our hurts to God with complete honesty. May the Lord help us to suffer like Jesus would. May the Lord teach us the language of lament.
“It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn your decrees.” (Psalm chapter 119, verse 71)
Roden Meares enjoys playing basketball, reading comics and going to the gym. He has a passion for evangelising and helping others in their faith through writing.
Roden’s previous articles can be viewed at https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/roden-meares.html