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Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? - Psalms 42:5 (NLT)
It’s one thing to say scripture is truthful, but is it honest? There’s an honesty about scripture we sometimes miss. While it is good to focus on “the wins” throughout the Bible, there is also a time to sit with the questions and cries of the disappointed and hurting people we find there. There are more question marks than there are exclamation points in Psalm 42. That’s honest. I like that God is okay with us seeing real, even godly, people in the Bible crying out in disappointment.
Our goal this week is to pay attention to the gas gauge of our hearts. Are our hearts full or running on empty? Let’s face it, full hearts can be filled with the wrong things. Frustrations created by “unanswered” prayers. Pain from the avoidance of grief. Anger from disappointments we’ve experienced. Even the baggage caused by unconfessed and hidden sin. Those things can definitely fill our hearts.
The invitation is to create space in our hearts so that the Father’s healing presence can fill us. One way to do that is by being honest with God. Some of us might have been taught that expressing raw and unfiltered honesty with Him would be disrespectful, even sinful. The book of Lamentations in the Old Testament proves that the Father is big enough, and even desires, to hear from us at our deepest level of discouragement. “And though I cry out,” Jeremiah writes about God in Lamentations 3, “He has shut out my prayers.” Honest.
Dr. Larry Crabb said, “To lament is basically to say to God, ‘Let me tell You where I am right now.’” Have you been totally honest with God? Do you think He’ll be disappointed and turn away if you tell Him where you really are?
As you pray today, offer praise and thanksgiving to the Father, but also have the courage to lament and name what’s true, even if it isn’t pretty. You might also do the same with a trusted spiritual friend. Empty your heart and let the Father fill it with something better.Share Tweet
“O God my rock,” I cry, “Why have you forgotten me?” - Psalms 42:9 (NLT)
The last two years have been a challenge as my wife, Beth, lost her parents to cancer. We never would have imagined both of them would be gone in the span of 18 months. Her dad was diagnosed first and started experiencing a slow decline. An unforeseen medical emergency cut short what we thought would be more time with him. Her mom was then blindsided just a few months after his passing with the news that she, too, had stage 4 cancer.
After the loss of her dad, and before her mom’s cancer diagnosis, my wife began to help her mom start rebuilding. Her house needed to be decluttered and sold. A new condo was bought and new furniture purchased for it. There were plans for travel and many good years ahead. But it didn’t work out that way.
Part of the grieving process is to ask questions, and there were many for us. “Why did she have to go so soon?” “Why couldn’t God have given her a few more years?” “Why did she deserve this?” Those are honest laments. Dr. Stephen Viars said, “Lamenting is a very healthy thing to do. As I lament, I’m pouring out my heart to God, and it is an action of worship, because I only cry out to people who I really believe can do something about it.”
My wife and I have come to realize that there won’t be satisfactory answers to the questions we’ve been asking. At least not for now. Our faith and journey through grief has reminded us that God won’t necessarily answer all of our questions. There are some things we’re just not going to know. We’re learning how to be okay with that.
He has made me chew on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust. Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!” - Lamentations 3:16-18 (NLT)
A quick scan of an online post by Sarah Blick reveals some interesting things about assumptions. She says, “It’s easy to make assumptions. All you need is incomplete information about a situation. And an unwillingness to ask the questions you need to complete the information. In the absence of complete information, you have to fill in the blanks yourself.”
She goes on to point out that assumptions are not helpful because they’re an “easy out,” “keep you stuck in the past,” and can only deepen pain.
One of the reasons our faith is sometimes challenged is because our understanding and expectations about God and what He does are inaccurate to begin with. A very bad assumption that people of faith will often make is that if I’m good enough, I won’t suffer. If I check all the right spiritual boxes I’ll be “in good standing” with God and He’ll “keep me safe.” The good news is that we are in good standing with the Father because of Jesus. The bad news is that we’re not in good standing with this broken world. Being subject to the brokenness of the world - caused by sin - is why there is suffering.
Another bad assumption? When I suffer I’m being punished by God. I don’t believe that. But God does redeem even the most profound disappointments. Bob Goff said, “Jesus never promised to eliminate all of the chaos from our lives; He said He’d bring meaning to it.”
“O God my rock,” I cry, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?” Their taunts break my bones. They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?” - Psalms 42:9-10 (NLT)
We’ve been paying attention this week to our hearts. We live in a broken world which can damage, empty, and then refill our hearts with heavy clutter. Today we’ll focus on those seasons when our hearts are healthy and full while someone around us might be broken and hurting.
People are often very uneasy if they have to be around someone who has experienced loss or is enduring pain. We often forget the grace we needed while we were in the midst of our own suffering. If your heart is healthy and full today, try to remember what you needed in your time of struggle. Do you remember being in the midst of people yet feeling very alone? Having to find grace for people who tried to comfort you but said unhelpful, even hurtful, things? Wondering if God was even there at all?
The truth is, nobody who is trying to be caring will do it perfectly all the time and those receiving care will not receive it perfectly all the time. We must be willing to offer grace to each other as God generously offers it to us.
Henri Nouwen has just the right counsel when it comes to caring well. “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares."
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! - Psalms 42:11 (NLT)
As a pastor, I’ve walked with a lot of people during their most desperate hours. I’ve done funerals for those who have lived long lives, for children and babies, for those whose lives were taken from them, and for those who took their own, addicts and alcoholics, relatives. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “Why?”
The story of Lazarus finds a lot of people asking the same thing. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were among Jesus’ closest friends. Jesus was away when Lazarus became sick. Word was sent to Jesus but He didn’t immediately show up. By the time Jesus did make it back, Lazarus had died and emotions were flying. Inundated with questions about why it took Him so long to get back, Jesus asked to be taken to Lazarus’ tomb. Overcome with every imaginable emotion in that moment, the Bible simply says, “Jesus wept.”
Don’t miss the power of the words, “Jesus wept.” In the midst of our pain we may not get an explanation. In fact, God doesn’t owe us an explanation for what He does. But even better than an explanation is knowing that we have a God who cries with us.
Lamentations 3:22–24 says, “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!’”