This week I am preaching on the spiritual discipline of lament. Lament might be the most poorly practiced discipline among American Christians. We just don't understand how to, "Count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds" (James 1:2).
Lament is the ability to say, "God, this sucks; yet I will worship you."
Lament is personal. I don't often like to bring too much of myself into my sermons, so I thought I'd share some thoughts from but two times of trial in my life. I could have selected from many different seasons, but these will do. I am no stranger to lament.
James, the author of the Scripture quoted above, went on to say, "For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:3-4).
Some of you know that Lisa and I lost a baby. Titus James. To say it sucked is a gross understatement. However, God showed us remarkable truths through that trial. We learned that God was with us and still worth our praise and worship. We learned that our faith-family loved and cared for us. And we learned that with Jesus we can endure more than we ever imagined. (You can read our lament and thoughts shortly after Titus' birth and death day here.)
Some of you were with us when Lydia's head hit the tile floor, and we had to rocket to the hospital, afraid. Jay stayed with our boys, and the faith family raced to our side. I will never forget Jim Harding hugging me as we both wept and praised the Jesus. That same year Jim nearly lost his wife when she almost drank a cup of acid at a BBQ place. He modeled the discipline of lament in such a way that carried us through the days and nights at the hospital.
It's nuts. It makes no sense. It's completely counter to the world's ways. Why worship God when all seems unwell?
Because what seems to be is not reality. God encourages us not to lose heart. The Apostle Paul wrote, "Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen by to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 2:16-18).
Lament is personal but you are in Christ, you do not lament alone.
If you are reading this and you are hurting, let me encourage you that you will not only get through this, you will get a peculiar glory through what this trial is producing. Jesus is with you. If you are hurting, please, be courageous to let us know. Let us pray with you. Let us encourage you. Preach the gospel into your soul until you know inside and out that God is worthy of praise. Do not lose heart!
We'll be praying through this during a time of prayer this Sunday at 10:00 am. Then at 11:00 am, we'll worship the Lord, and I'll walk through what the Bible has to say about lament. It doesn't have to be the way the world says it is. We can say, "This sucks, yet I will still worship the Lord." Join us.
For the Kingdom!
Pastor Bryan Catherman