Throughout the course of last semester, I was intrigued and challenged by one subject in particular, that of lament. Previously, I had held to the common view of lament, that it is solely an expression of grief and despair. While this is partially true, it is only the first half of lament. As I read the book of Psalms, I realized that lament is more than a dispirited complaint but rather an honest outpouring of distress before the One Who can give relief. Biblical lamentation consists of two primary parts: crying out in genuine distress and then in either trust or praise following God’s deliverance. However, this was mostly an intellectual realization for me.
There are so many problems and crises in the modern world that I truly lament. I pray for deliverance from them and for guidance in facing them and do not hesitate to express in such prayers my great sorrow over the fallen state of the world. However, these threats are external to me and it is easier for me to trust God in such situations. The greatest danger to my peace is within myself, in the form of pride.
I absolutely hate to admit it (which just evidences the reality of it), but I have struggled with pride all my life. I don’t mean that I am stuck-up or think I’m the bomb.com or anything. (For reals, I said “bomb.com” so clearly I am not that cool.) For me, pride manifested itself as perfectionism. We all have our weaknesses and this happens to be mine. Throughout the past couple of years, it has manifested itself in some self-image issues and a near eating disorder. Again, I really hate admitting this, but I am learning the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly will I rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I have done much better throughout the past year in this particular area, but it is still a struggle. Lately it has been on my mind more than I would like to admit. I will not go into detail, but I will say that my prideful desire for control was bringing me nothing but disappointment. Yes, on one hand, my perfectionism pushes me to work hard for excellence, but, on the other hand, when I fail to achieve my crazy expectations, it drags me to the point of lament.
However, today, many small realizations and lessons seem to have reached a conclusion. Throughout the semester, various verses had resonated with me and I was not entirely sure why. Now, I see them all fitting together, forming the second part of this little lament: correction, assurance, and thanksgiving.
Correction: Mark 7:15
“There is nothing that enters a man from the outside which can defile him; but the things that come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.”
My attempts at control were misplaced. What or how much I eat is nothing compared to actively working to advance the Kingdom!
Assurance: Philippians 4:11
“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”
My contentment should not be dependent on myself or my physical situation, for if that is the case, then I will not find true, lasting joy. Better to rest in eternal assurances than situations I attempt to balance on my own.
Thanksgiving: Psalm 139:14
“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.”
The hands that made me before I was even born are continuing to shape me into who I am meant to be. Who am I to doubt the skill of my Creator?
Today, I felt pretty nasty, so I didn’t do much besides sit on the couch and eat lots of toast. I confess that this bothered me. Not only was I missing what promised to be a really really really fun night out, but I felt that I was being super lazy and probably eating way too much (toast is just so comforting when you’re sick!). However, I kept being reminded of these verses and the lessons that I’ve been slowly learning. My identity and happiness will never be found through my own efforts, which are, as Ecclesiastes states, “vanities of vanities.” However, in knowing that I have a Savior in heaven who has redeemed me from this struggle and has been working in me to overcome it, I can rest in His peace; I can sit still and munch on all the toast my little queasy stomach desires for I know that, as Philippians 4:19 says:
“My God shall supply all [my] need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
I’ll leave you (if you read this far, that is) with one last thought. I opened one of my favorite devotional books this evening, The Valley of Vision, and opened randomly to this prayer:
“Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects,
my heart admires, adores, loves thee,
for my little vessel is as full as it can be…
I bless thee for the soul thou has created,
for adorning it, sanctifying it,
though it is fixed in barren soil;
for the body thou has given me…
Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.”*
My heart rejoiced at this, for it is exactly what my scattered thoughts wished to say. May I truly love God first, above my selfish desires, and be thankful for what He has given me, through no merit of my own. And may I continue to increase in love and service for Him, living by a faith that transcends my human efforts.
*(note that I cut parts as this prayer is rather long)