Did Jesus Ever Complain to God? - The Value of Lament
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish? (Ps 22:1)
Has your life ever completely fallen apart? I went through a period of complete turmoil in 2011-2012; my struggles with pain had started in 2009, and by mid-2011 were accelerating at an alarming rate. On August 5th, 2011 I went on medical leave, thinking I’d rest up for a couple weeks and return to my job rested, relaxed, and refreshed. Little did I know I wouldn’t see a real paycheck again for nearly four years. In the months that passed I lost my job, my wife lost her job, we couldn’t sell our Seattle condo (and when we finally did incurred a $10,000 loss), our savings evaporated, friends vanished, our church was destroyed by a false teacher (which made national news) and in general our “normal” evaporated before our eyes. I was completely and utterly bewildered, uncertain how to process what was happening on an emotional and spiritual level.
Since becoming a Christian I’d always been up front about my feelings and emotions, but when this happened I shut down, bottling up much of what I was feeling. There was so much pain, so much loss; already afraid that God was somehow punishing me for a wrong or sinful attitude in my heart, I was terrified to pour out my true feelings to him. I didn’t understand it at the time, but this only served to make my pain and anxiety even worse. In my head I believed God was for me, but in my heart I doubted..
I found a great article by Mark Vroegop, lead pastor of College Park in Indianapolis, IN, titled “Did Jesus Ever Complain to God?" (catchy title, eh?) He starts with Jesus quoting Psalm 22 from the cross, writing:
The quotation of Psalm 22 from Jesus on the cross is a prime example of the value of lament. Here we have the Son of God who knows the overall plan of redemptive history. He knows what’s going to happen. And yet, the pain of the moment causes him to quote this lament psalm and say, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Jesus, the son of God, felt forsaken and abandoned by his Father, and wasn’t afraid to tell him how he felt. Why am I so afraid to do this? (maybe you are too) In my case I know my upbringing comes into play - being faithful means believing the right things all the time. Having doubt of any kind = sin. That doesn’t really gel with the Jesus we read about in the book of Hebrews who is able to relate to our struggles because he went through what we are going through and felt the things we feel. Vroegop had this to say:
Grief isn’t tame and lament helps us to navigate through this complicated arena of our emotions and allows us to open our hearts to tell God what we feel. The reality is that silence is a killer when it comes to our spiritual life. Lament opens the heart and opens the voice to tell God what’s really happening inside of our souls.
Expressing our true feelings is actually a means to increase our faith, not diminish it. Are you in a period of suffering, loss, or disillusionment and don’t know what to say? Start with Psalm 22, and pour your heart out to God - it’s a first step in the right direction towards Him.