From an early age, we learn to deal with pain in a timely manner. Suck it up. Get back to life. Compartmentalize. Pretend everything is okay. Essentially, we fake or we escape.
We can “fake fine”[i] for a while and quite possibly even fool ourselves and others into believing that nothing is wrong. But that typically ends up hurting us or our loved ones, because as we all know, emotions tend to dwell near the surface, just waiting to explode. In other words, you can move all your crap to the attic, try to hide it from yourself and the neighbors, but sooner or later the whole house is gonna get stanky.
On the other hand, we can turn toward something or someone to mask the pain. We drink. We overeat. (I personally binge-watch British television shows on Netflix.) We shop. We sleep. We become addicted people. But soon we realize that pretending something isn’t there only gives it more power.
None of us want to long-suffer. We like to think of affliction as something to rush through, strut successfully away from, and then talk about during an inspirational keynote address at a conference. But in reality, pain, enigmatic and enduring, can’t be so easily surmised or moved passed.
Lament asks us to do something out of the ordinary. It forces us to sit with our grief, no matter how uncomfortable, and simply stay put. In the words of Eugene Petersen, lament says, “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions. Wait for hope to appear.”[ii]
Those ideas don’t feel very natural to us, do they? In fact, lament might even feel like disobedience, because to acknowledge our grief and anger can initially feel like we’re denying God’s goodness or practicing ungratefulness.
But to avoid lament is actually a form of idolatry, of sinfulness. Because if we try to carry our pain ourselves or attempt to mask it, run away from it, or suck it up and get over it, what we’re really saying to God is something along the lines of, “Listen, man. You’re great and all, but I don’t need your help at the moment. I got this.”
Lament forces us to recognize our deep, desperate need for God’s rescue. Lament leads us to lean on Jesus like never before.
1. In what ways have you been “faking fine”? Where do you tend to turn in order to mask your pain? What are your typical coping mechanisms when it comes to the hurt you should be lamenting?
2. What is your typical response to grief and the uncomfortable feelings of heartache? In what ways have you been avoiding lament? How has your avoidance of your hurt been a form of idolatry in your heart?
3. Where are you desperate for God’s rescue in your life? In what ways do you need His help to process and heal your wounds or your sinful patterns?
Lord, I repent of the ways in which I have been faking fine in order to ignore the pain in my life. I am sorry for how I have pushed you away in my hurt, choosing to disregard the ache or turning towards lesser things to bring the comfort that only you can. Teach me to be honest in my desperation for you to enter into the places I try to hide. Amen.
A Practice: Fast
You may have chosen to fast from certain things in this Lenten season already, but think back to some of those ways you tend to mask your pain. Choose to fast from one of those coping mechanisms, whether it is shopping, Netflix binges, unhealthy eating, or some other addiction, and replace the time you usually spend doing those things with prayer and reading God’s Word as you seek to grow in honesty with the Lord over your suffering.
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[i] Esther Fleece‘s book, in which she writes about lament, is titled No More Faking Fine: Ending the Pretending. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017).
[ii] Lamentations 3:28-29, The Message.