My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud;
My voice rises to God, and He will hear me.
2 In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness;
My soul refused to be comforted.
3 When I remember God, then I am disturbed;
When I sigh, then my spirit grows faint. Selah.
4 You have held my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
5 I have considered the days of old,
The years of long ago.
6 I will remember my song in the night;
I will meditate with my heart,
And my spirit ponders:
7 Will the Lord reject forever?
And will He never be favorable again?
8 Has His lovingkindness ceased forever?
Has His promise come to an end forever?
9 Has God forgotten to be gracious,
Or has He in anger withdrawn His compassion? Selah.
10 Then I said, “It is my grief,
That the right hand of the Most High has changed.”
11 I shall remember the deeds of the LORD;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
12 I will meditate on all Your work
And muse on Your deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy;
What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
You have made known Your strength among the peoples.
15 You have by Your power redeemed Your people,
The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah PS. 77 NASB
I have been doing much reflecting on suffering and trauma as I prepare and write for Haiti, and the biblical integration of psychological aids in relationship to the biblical language of Lament. I personally believe that if we are to heal from traumatic events through God’s word, it comes through an ability to lament as demonstrated in the Psalms (as well as loving brethren willing to enter into lament with us).
Our emotions connect our inner world to the blessings and difficulties of life, and after a traumatic event our emotions can be unbearable. When we disconnect internally and horizontally with others, we lose our vertical connection to God. I have felt this many times in life (especially recent years and older age) when under great duress as a result of some trial or loss, I have completely disconnected from others – usually in my own pain, and often from a lack of compassion or knowledge of what to do in the face of pain from others. Facing pain in someone else requires facing pain in ourselves; we want to run from pain.
Death, life-threatening illness, job losses, economic instability all can cause chaos to the mind, the soul, and the horizontal relationships with man – deeply affecting the vertical connection that holds us firmly to the Rock we stand upon, and Father above we cling to.
In the American church we tend to equate emotional struggles with God as a lack of spirituality, losing with that mindset the greater work that God does through our darkest emotions; losing the opportunity to minister in the time of greatest need the love of the Suffering Servant who suffered on our behalf as our example.
Most of us live each day waiting for the next thing – the next moment – the next vacation, the next season, the next job…always believing the next will be better than the present. Joy is never lasting but fleeting and so makes us long for more joy and brings to mind the thing we are missing in life, the PLACE where there is no pain or suffering and joy will be our final state. God has placed within us a longing for joy that can never be filled – a knowledge that there is something far greater than what we possess.
When our dark emotions rise up, we try to suppress them with positive thoughts or actions rather than delve deeply into the places where God can meet us and bring to the surface the roots of our fears – the depths of our depravity, our deep need for Him.
We see above that Asaph cried in despair, longing to hear the voice of God, to feel his presence. He was unable to pray, to praise, to worship – unable to connect with God – he questioned His hesed (lovingkindness v. 8). Asaph was in spiritual distress believing God did not hear his prayers. He was in pain, his nation was in pain – God was not present.
Only by entering into his grief (v 10) and the pain and darkness of his emotions, could Asaph begin to remember the ways of old. He could recall the promises of God and the deliverance of His people.
It did not change his circumstances or his experience, but it changed his ability to feel God’s presence and know Him. He changed his ability to trust.
We are a groaning creation and the our emotions continue to cry from the Garden for the redemption of our bodies. We are body, soul, and spirit – we are whole beings created in the image of God for something we know is beyond our worldly experience – a place of perfection, of lasting joy.
For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?
25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
Rom. 8 NASB
We groan as Asaph did – we experience the same emotions, the same fallen world, the same suffering, the same longing to ascend to the place where our spirits cry Abba Father, in the living presence of Him who calls us children. Our hope is in Jesus Christ who knows our groanings and intercedes on behalf of our suffering.The ability to embrace deeply and learn from our painful emotions, as unstable as they can be – gives us the ability to embrace more deeply the joy that can be found in this world as we remain other worldly in our expectations.
May we all be willing to enter into the dark places and wrestle with God – being changed to the image of the Son, as we persevere for the hope we do not see – the redemption of our bodies (soul, mind and spirit). May we not fear the darkness or run from our own emotions, but wait for the Holy Spirit to illuminate, and cleanse, and change us. My prayer for Haiti (and myself) – may God teach us about Him, in the places of pain and the dark alleys where we are afraid to go.