You can be honest with God

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? (Psalm 22:1-2)

In last week’s Pulse, in light of the atrocities in the Middle East, I began a four-part series on lament, a type of prayer God gives us to process our grief. In his book Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, Mark Vroegop defines lament as “a prayer in pain which leads to trust.” Laments consist of four movements: turn to God, voice your complaint, ask boldly, and choose to trust. Think of it like a decision tree: in movement one, as you experience suffering, you have a choice to either turn to God or away from Him. In movement two, you can either suck it up and pretend all is fine, or you can give full vent to all your emotions to God. In movement three, you can either accept what is happening as fate, or ask God to act, to bring justice, to show up, to move, to act according to His character. And in movement four, you can either get swallowed up by your despair, or you can choose to trust that God is good, that He is sovereign, that He loves you.

Today, we will look at the second movement, voicing your complaint to God. Depending upon your background, the idea of venting your honest emotions to God may feel sacrilegious. After all, shouldn’t we clean ourselves up before we come to God in prayer, being careful to speak with churchy words and phrases? If you have believed that venting your honest emotions to God is wrong, consider the brutal honesty of the Psalms and some of the other prophets of the Bible:

Psalm 22:1-2 - My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.

Psalm 44:23-24 - Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.  Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?

Psalm 77:7-9 - "Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"

Jeremiah 15:18 - Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails?

1 Kings 19:4 - Elijah came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."

Clearly the saints of the Bible felt comfortable expressing their hurt, disappointment, and frustration to God. And, yes, sometimes even feelings of anger and vengeance are not off limits:

Psalm 58:6-8Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; tear out, O LORD, the fangs of the lions! Let them vanish like water that flows away; when they draw the bow, let their arrows be blunted. Like a slug melting away as it moves along, like a stillborn child, may they not see the sun.

It is right to be honest with God; in fact, it is better to be honest and raw in your prayers than to pretend to be something that God knows you are not. Listen to how Michael Card put it: “Prayers of complaint can still be prayers of faith. They represent the last refusal to let go of the God who may seem to be absent or worse – uncaring. If this is true, then lament expresses one of the most intimate moments of faith – not a denial of it. It is supreme honesty before a God whom my faith tells me I can trust. He encourages me to bring everything as an act of worship, my disappointment, my frustration, and even my hate. Only lament uncovers this kind of new faith…”

Turn to God and voice your complaints, your frustration, your disappointment, and even your anger to God. He is big enough to handle it.
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