John Michael Talbot. He has quite a variety of musical styles, but many of them create an environment where it is easy to feel my sadness, while being filled up with the hope that God’s words bring. A lot of his songs are pretty close to quotes of various Psalms. I guess it is like his music is a place where the ache and longing meet the hope and promises of God without either reality being compromised or diminished by the other.
Michael Card, on his CD The Hidden Face of God. (Here is a review) I commented on another post that when I listen to this CD, my 4-year-old daughter always asks for the song she calls “Falling Tears”, which talks about human tears being older than the rain. That song really got all of my kids thinking. I have prayed in ways I couldn’t with words alone, while listening to this CD, especially the first song which talks about worshiping with our wounds. Personally, the sentence on the CD that has best articulated my experience with lamenting lately is, “When our questions dissolve into the silence of God, the aching may remain, but the breaking does not.”
Jeremiah. The one in the Bible. In this example, I love how he laments, how he listens to God and then how he responds. He chooses obedience again and again, but never minimizing the suffering resulting from his choice to trust and obey.
Job. I love to go through that book in pieces–only reading the parts where Job is talking. And then at the end, to read the chapters where God responds to Job. Someplace recently I read a suggestion to read Job 38-42 over and over, day after day. One of the things I love about lamenting is the honest place it puts me in to hear God. The joy and knowing God that comes out of a place of suffering and sorrow is wonderful.
Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes. Mourning what is NOT satisfactory and meaningful brings us closer to discovering what really is.
Habakkuk. His name, from what I hear, means “The one who clings.” Even if….even if….even if…… Don’t just read the last few verses. Read the whole book to get the context and impact of the message at the end. Habakkuk makes me want to fear God, mourn sin, tremble and yet trust and rejoice deeply and desperately.
Dan Allender in The Cry of the Soul. I love this book, where he celebrates the ways that the emotions we call “negative” also reflect the image of God. Allender is really big on teaching that we should neither run from nor minimize the longings we have on this earth. Allender truly celebrates lament.
Ruth Bell Graham, in her poetry, models for me the beauty of lament as part of the pathway to hope and joy.
John Piper, though I’m not sure he, who teaches Delighting in God above all else, would be thrilled or honored to be nominated as one who has helped me as I embrace lamenting. Still, it has been through lamenting and facing my pain most deeply that I have come to receive most fully the joy that comes from my relationship to God. And John Piper has helped me along the way. He is serious, compassionate, and has a lighthearted spirit that can make me smile without feeling like my sorrowfulness makes me morally defective. Again, that seems a bit odd, since he is all about teaching us to delight in God.
Following are a few websites where I have experienced lamenting that puts words to my heart’s cries as well as encourages me in my journey. You know, when you see another person lamenting what doesn’t make sense, and still choosing to follow and trust God, it is encouraging in a way that “Rejoice always” pep talks are not (I’m not saying Paul’s words were “just” a pep talk. But many sermons on Phil. 4 are that). Back to the websites that I think do a good job lamenting:
Pause, (Janelle Milazzo) Janelle works with people who have been through hopeless and traumatic situations, and whose lives, even now, don’t hold a lot of hope. Two of my favorite posts: The giving of meaning and Cast All Your Votes for Dancing. Janelle asks good questions and keeps coming back to hope and trust.
And just tonight I discovered the blog, From the Pickle Jar. Lynne has a gift of putting her laments into poetry. I found out about her through a comment and poem she left on Internet Monk’s post on smiling. Scroll down to read her poem under comments.
Which brings me to my last Lament Mentor. The best (in my opinion), internet lamenter around: Internet Monk. Many people online rant and rave about things which I also think about. But I don’t particularly enjoy reading rants and raves about things which I think are wrong, because usually those things make my heart hurt, they don’t make me mad. And if I read angry rants, I start to get angry in a way that feeds bitterness, which doesn’t change anything (except making me more miserable).
Internet Monk is different. Sometimes he rants and raves, but usually I think what he is doing is lamenting–being excruciatingly honest about things that are wrong in this world.
Part of why I think what he does is lamenting and not complaining is that he keeps coming back to: Humility, Trust, Love, Forgiveness and Hope. A lot of what he has said about the Evangelical Church rings true for me. But you know what, his post on going back to an SBC Church was one of the most amazing things I’ve read. It encouraged me as I’m currently lamenting while looking for a church and finding myself tempted to become cynical and hyper-critical. Instead, Michael Spencer makes me realize I can be sad about what is not happening in church, but out of the sadness, I can embrace what God is doing through imperfect people in imperfect settings. Even while I continue to mourn for what isn’t and long for what should be.
Two other posts on depression I read some time ago came back to me recently as I thought about wanting to nominate Michael for the #1 Spiritual Lamenter on the Internet. They are here: “What About Antidepressant Medication?” and “The Boat in the Backyard” (about his father’s struggle with depression and what it meant for Michael and his family).
Well, I was already celebrating how Michael helps me lament well, while keeping my face turned to God, and then tonight I read his amazing post on Smiling. Talk about a good example of lament. Thank you, Michael.
Here are a few quotes from that post. I hope you’ll read the whole thing:
“I’ve got some serious stuff going on in my world right now that simply isn’t at the grinning stage. I’ve never thought that it made much sense to take in all of life, then filter out whatever moves me to sorrow, leaving only a southern Gospel chorus about mama and heaven.”
“Jesus gives me joy. The life that cost Jesus his- my messed up life- doesn’t make me happy, but the Gospel makes me happy. Part of the happiness is the sorrow now.”
“If I have genuine joy, however, it won’t be a facade. It will be kind of joy that belongs to grieving people, dying people, people who are alone, people who’ve been turned away, and the last, the least, the lost and the little. This joy comes in the midst of the world that Jesus wept over. It is the world that sees Lazarus’ tomb as well as his rags on the floor of an empty tomb. “
Again, thanks, Michael. You make the weeping more real. And as a result, the place where I experience the joy of the Lord is more real and deep as well.