We don't hear much talk about lamenting these days do we? Why would anyone lament? Shouldn't we be reading Your Best Life Now or Become a Better You or 7 Habits of Highly Effective People when life smacks us in the face? Hasn't the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God been given so we can quickly read or listen to the how to's of our time and pull ourselves out of our proverbial pit?
I recently viewed a You Tube video of an interview of John Lennon after the breakup of the Beatles. The British interviewer was asking John to recount some defining moments that aided in the breakup of the group and John shared a story about a 1967 visit the band made to a lecture given by the famous Maharishi in Wales. Following the lecture, the group was informed that Brian Epstein, the band's manager, had died. John recounts, with come colorful language, the absurdity of the Maharishi's insistence that the band just move on saying, "O forget about it...be happy." He says that they all went along with it, but moving on never allowed them to conquer the sense of futility they felt, or addressed the significance of losing a close friend, much less the significance of death itself. They just moved on. They just smiled. John Lennon, looking back some years later sees the balderdash that this advice was. He recognized the insufficiency of that type of outlook and the toll it took on the four friends' relationship.
Now, I am fairly certain that anyone who would read more than the header to this blog has probably never sat at the feet of a Hindu Brahmin or a Yogi, and probably doesn't want to! However, can't we all think of Christians who have a similar outlook on suffering, pain, and death. I have heard Christians speak as if the key to overcoming the pain and frustration of miserable circumstances is simply to sing along with the Monty Python song Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
The problem is that this type of flimsy and un-biblical thinking catches up to you. Yes, Paul did say that he learned to be content in whatever circumstance he was in. Yes, we are called to a ministry that commends itself to others by the joyful way we undergo persecution, slander and various types of suffering. But this isn't the same as ignoring our circumstances. It isn't the same as the lesson the self help gurus sell: that we can just tweak a habit here, think positively there and voila, we will find ourselves in complete joy and happiness. After all, the contentment that St. Paul found in the midst of jail, beatings, shipwrecks, hunger, and cold didn't come from within. It came from God. It came from a strength outside of Paul, given to him by his maker and redeemer.
So, the question really is, how do we imitate a man like Paul? What did he do in the midst of suffering that strengthened him and was a conduit for the power of God to manifest itself on Paul's life?
One clue is found in Acts 16. Paul and Silas are seized, brought before the local magistrates, are stripped of their clothing and are publicly flogged. They then were then thrown in a Roman prison and were chained by the feet. Not knowing whether their death was imminent, not knowing if they had more beatings in store, not knowing what their future held, these men, suffering, beaten, and cold were found singing and praying.
They did not run and hide from God. They did not sink into a self-loathing depression. They did not decide to wait till they got out of the situation to sing the glorious truths of the faith or to remind them of the sufficiency of God. They worshiped God by praying. They showed attitudes of complete dependence by casting their cares at the foot of the Lord who promises to hear and respond to His children.
Lament, in the bible, is not a word that means, "complaining." It is properly understood as the expression of fear, doubt, doubt, regret, mourning and sadness that is used to WORSHIP GOD. Take your sorrow, your pain, your heartache and brokenness and magnify God through these times. If we learn to worship in the midst of our trials, we will find that we can do all things through Christ, who gives us strength even to sing in the midst of life's prisons.
More on this subject later