Who likes to complain? Sure, we all do. We may not readily admit it, but complaining somehow releases a satisfying measure of pent up emotional energy. Like a quick snack on the way out the door, complaining helps us work through the “next meal” without suffering the full awareness of our hunger.
I’ll be the first to admit, when I’m exhausted, feel unsupported, witness injustice in the workplace, or even have a slight headache, a complaint is often the first thought to enter my mind. Like Paul, no matter how much I truly do not want to complain, it seems to happen anyway (Romans 7:15-20).
Releasing emotion is not sinful, wrong, or damaging. What’s damaging is HOW you release those emotions. I’ve often pondered all of those times that Jesus “went off to pray.” Do you think he never laid before the Father His frustrations, hurt, and pain? Jesus was an emotional person! Just look at a few of these insights to Jesus’ emotions during his three short years of ministry:
- Jesus was “sorrowful and troubled…even to death” Matthew 26:38
- Jesus felt “pity” and “compassion” Mark 1:41
- Jesus felt “anger, grieved…and deeply distressed” Mark 3:5
- Jesus “sighed deeply in his spirit” Mark 8:12
- Jesus said he was “Great in distress…what constraint I am under” Luke 12:50
- Jesus felt “zeal” and “passion” John 2:17
- Jesus “loved” John 13:1
Add to these all the times we can read the frustration and sarcasm between the lines when Jesus spoke to the Pharisees or his disciples. Jesus starts to appear truly human!
Yet in the midst of these emotions, Jesus remained sinless and blameless before God. He never once complained or acted in unrighteousness. How could He maintain such purity in His emotional health while facing the betrayal, schemes to kill, gossip, and unbelief circlingHhis every move?
Learning to Lament
Scripture gives us rich examples of how to lay our turbulent emotions before the Father. To “lament” means to passionately express grief or sorrow. The Psalms are full of lament. David constantly cried out to God in anger, fear, sorrow, and loneliness.
The key to proper lamenting is found in the foundation from which we are expressing the pain.
Related Post: Depression is Real but it Really Gets Better
Are we crying to God with a self-first mentality? Are our prayers saturated with “Why me?” and “How could they do this to me?” Instead, biblical lamenting draws from the deep sorrow our spirits should be feeling toward the spiritual reality of the situation. Are we sorrowful the way God is sorrowful over the effects of sin in the world? Are we looking at our enemies, sorrowful over how they have hurt us, or do we see the emptiness of their souls? Do we care more about receiving our own perceived idea of justice, or do we care more about forgiveness (both from us and God)?
Jesus was hurt, He was angry, and Hhe was lonely. Hebrews 4:15 affirms to us “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” Instead of complaining to his friends or making a sarcastic post on social media, Jesus engaged in God-centered, tear-soaked, Spirit-filled, Bible-based, gut-level lamenting amidst His suffering.
The Benefits of Lamenting
The following benefits of lamenting I cannot take full credit for (although I have personally experienced most, if not all, of them). Pastor Mark Driscoll, in his newest book Spirit Filled Jesus, provides some deeper insight into the practice of Biblical lamenting that I encourage all of you to read. Here are a few takeaways worth sharing:
1.When you lament, you allow yourself to feel.
Instead of self-medicating with food, gossip, rage, or social media, we instead open up our emotional baggage to both God and others in a way that helps us “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). If we don’t, we will pretend we can fly and yet find ourselves laying in the ditch.
2. When you lament, you process pain.
When you don’t work our hurt, you are left feeling confused, angry, or depressed. This only prolongs the pain. Lamenting helps us to process in a way that leads to growth and refinement before God.
3. When you lament, you grieve your involvement and shed your victim mind-set.
Lamenting makes you aware of your own sinfulness as God is aware of our human nature. This helps you evaluate where you must change.
4. When you lament, you don’t lash out in vengeance.
Returning evil for evil never works in the long run. Lamenting helps you work our the anger and frustration that naturally comes from pain.
5. When you lament, you empathize with others who are hurting.
2 Corinthians 1:4 tells us that sufferings come “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Healed people heal. Be a healer.
6. When you lament, you feel hope for the future.
Lamenting allows you to perform both an autopsy and a funeral within your soul. You figure out why you are grieving, and then you take the time to mourn over it. Afterward, you look up from your tears seeing a fresh future on the horizon.
7. When you lament, you escape anger and depression.
Don’t get stuck in a spiral of grief which leads to depression. Anger often masks depression. Lamenting helps you avoid both.
What Do you Need to Lament?
Is there something or someone in your life calling for a season of Biblical lament? What is the nagging frustration, the sorrowful memory, or the tarnished relationship you keep pushing down beneath the surface of your soul? Whatever it is, God wants to help you deal with it. There is a way to address the emotions you feel and still honor God. I invite you to join me in this. Let’s grow more like Jesus together!