The day dawned brightly. After a cup of coffee with my daughter and her family I headed for a much anticipated visit to the school where Peter is an administrator. At 7:47 am, there was a thunderous crash that left two cars ruined. The other driver walked away with bangs and bruises in body. My feelings? Renewed anxiety! Where was God? Is He with me, or not? My recent life has led me through many sorrows, great and small, one piled on the other. (I am thankful for the gentle, loving people who willingly walk with me!) A man of mature faith and confidence, these days I am acquainted with fear. (Oh, yes, I am grateful for the fact that the accident could have been so much worse, but why did it happen at all?)
The Sons of Korah penned a song that asks- God, what are You doing? Where have You gone? After affirming their faith and thankfulness for God’s provisions in the past, they switch to a minor key. “But now you have tossed us aside in dishonor. You no longer lead our armies to battle.” (Psalm 44:9, NLT) “You sold your precious people for a pittance, making nothing on the sale. You let our neighbors mock us. We are an object of scorn and derision to those around us. You have made us the butt of their jokes; they shake their heads at us in scorn.” (Psalm 44:12-14, NLT) “All this has happened though we have not forgotten you. We have not violated your covenant.” (Psalm 44:17, NLT) “Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Get up! Do not reject us forever. Why do you look the other way? Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression?” (Psalm 44:23-24, NLT)
There is a place for singing in the minor key as we make our way in this pilgrimage. Oh how easy it is to pray and praise, to sing and preach, when healthy, beloved, and without trials. In such times those strong and whole are sometimes too quick to blame the broken, adding insult to injury. I believe we need to make it safe for saints to wonder and weep!
A healthy range of emotions includes sorrow and joy, doubt and confidence. We know that psychological wholeness is found in proper expression of all emotions. Why is it that we do not recognize the same in our walk with Christ? When disciples lament, when they ask the hard questions of our God, they can grow into a new dimension of faith. I fear that our constant emphasis on the goodness of the Lord, our songs that only celebrate that “God is good all the time,” leaves a large group of Christians without a way to worship.
The newly divorced person needs to be able to tell God and their community of the ache.
That parent whose child is disabled needs love as they wonder why their son will never read or sing.
Grief is real and changes my worship!
If songs in the minor key are written out of our worship, we may Christians to one of two faulty conclusions: that their faith is faulty or that God is justly judging them for some moral failure. Truthfully, suffering comes to us all and we need Him to be our Lord when we walk through the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ as much as when we are led by ‘quiet waters where He restores the soul.’ We need songs of lament as much as we need songs of celebration, songs that wonder as much as songs that make bold proclamation. If God is to be truly our God, then we must learn to talk with Him in every situation and trust Him when the sun refuses to shine.
Christians need to give place and space to those who weep without rushing them to a counselor to get them to ‘deal with their emotions,’ or handing them a manual to help them to “get life right.”
There are not many sermons preached from the third chapter of Lamentations. Jeremiah’s sorrow is simply too unpleasant for most of us to share. Look at this portion: “He has filled me with bitter herbs and sated me with gall. He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust. I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:15-18, NIV) Oh my! And Amen!
I can tell you this: times of lament make one weary to the bone, bring on times of temptation of a very different kind than prosperity, and are lonely for few want to sing in the minor key with those who are sad. But, these times can also soften the heart, make tender the spirit, and enlarge the reservoirs of compassion. So, I will, despite my sorrow, let Jeremiah lead me to hope. I will join in him in a confession of faith. Will you? “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” (Lamentations 3:21-26, NIV)
“For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.” (Lamentations 3:31-32, NIV)
Meantime I may need to sing in a minor key for a time, until the sorrow finds comfort.
Abide with me, fast falls the eventide.
The darkness deepens, Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me. – Public Domain