Summary: Suffering, loss and grief are all a part of human experience. Learning to lament during those times will help us work through the grief while holding to our faith in God. This only happens if we keep turning to and talking with God.
A. One soldier in the British Airborne was going through his parachute training.
1. This included eight jumps. Two from a balloon at 800 feet with a cage suspended below it, and six from an airplane.
2. While standing at the door of the balloon cage for his first jump, he heard another recruit ask the instructor, “If the parachute doesn’t open, how long will it take me to hit the ground from 800 feet?”
3. The instructor calmly remarked, “You’ll be about halfway through The Lord’s Prayer.”
4. Now, I’m sure that recruit would be praying whether his chute opened or not! Don’t you think?
B. One day a group of amateur climbers was scaling part of the Matterhorn mountain in Switzerland.
1. As they came to a narrow, hazardous passage way, a gust of wind swept down on them.
2. The experienced guide, knowing the danger this posed for the group, quickly shouted, “Get down on your knees! You are only safe on your knees!”
3. The group immediately dropped to their knees.
4. How true this is for the Christian as well, right? We are only safe on our knees.
5. In other words, to experience true life and spiritual safely we must always keep turning to God in prayer.
C. This is the main point that we want to explore today as we continue our new series “Good Grief: Expressing Grief, Finding Grace.”
1. Last week we talked about the reality of grief and suffering in our lives, and how we need to learn to lament in order to move through grief in a healthy and helpful way.
2. As we learn how to navigate grief and loss, and how to help other people do so, we always need to keep in mind that things like patience, kindness and grace needs to be practiced by all people involved; including the givers and the receivers of support.
D. Mark Vroegop begins the next chapter of his book, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy with this question: “Who taught you to cry?”
1. The answer, of course, is “no one.”
2. Although none of us remember it, the first sound that any of us made when we came into this world was a heartfelt protest.
3. All of our lives began in a similar fashion – we all let out a loud cry.
4. To cry is to be a human and it comes naturally.
E. But lament is different - the practice of lament – the kind that is biblical, honest, and restorative – is not as naturally for us.
2. To lament is to pray – it is a statement of faith.
3. Mark Vroegop says that “lament is the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness.
4. Actually, it is our belief in God’s mercy, goodness and sovereignty that creates the need for lament.
5. Without hope in God’s goodness and promises and the conviction that God is all-powerful, there would be no reason to lament when suffering invades our lives.
6. Todd Billings, in his book, Rejoicing in Lament, says: “It is precisely out of trust that God is sovereign that the psalmist repeatedly brings laments and petitions to the Lord…If the psalmists had already decided the verdict – that God is indeed unfaithful – they would not continue to offer their complaint.”
7. We, Christians, believe that the world is broken, but that God is powerful, and that God will be faithful.
8. Therefore, we lament, and our laments stand in the gap between pain and promise.
F. Mark Vroegop tells about a prayer summit that he was leading for the staff of his church.
1. Mark placed an empty chair in the middle of the circle of their chairs.
2. While they were singing, praying and spontaneously reading Scripture, he invited people to make their way to the middle chair and share their prayer of lament to the Lord.
3. They had been studying the subject of lament, and he had encouraged them to write their own prayer of lament, and it was time to put this minor-key song into personal practice.
4. Mark also knew that there was a lot of pain in the room.
5. After a few minutes of awkward silence, a brave young woman nervously moved to the middle chair, clutching the small card she had written on and she sighed.
a. Painful emotions were just under the surface.
b. Her husband, who was on their church staff, quickly joined her and knelt beside her.
c. Others soon followed, surrounding her and gently placing hands on her to show support.
d. With a trembling voice she read her lament: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you withhold the blessing of a child from us? How long will we cry to you – how many more days, months, or years will pass with our arms remaining empty? How much longer will we struggle to rejoice with those who rejoice while we sit weeping? But I have trusted in your steadfast love. My heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me! Thank you, Father!”