Finding Hope in Life’s Dark Moments
- Christina Fox christinafox.com
- 2016 10 Jun
Consider your responses to the following life scenarios:
You learn that your spouse has lost their job. The finances are already tight; now a huge chunk of your income is all of sudden gone.
The dream you have strived for so long to attain has once again been dashed. The years you have dedicated to its pursuit seem wasted.
A person you loved and trusted turned their back on you in rejection. It feels like a knife is lodged in your chest.
What would you feel? Fear? Sorrow? Rejection? Anger? Despair?
When such emotions enter our lives we often have go-to responses. We have typical ways we handle them. Some of us might try to distract ourselves from our pain. Others might hide from the truth of the pain and flat out deny its existence. Still others might cover the pain with temporary comforts. From my book, A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament:
“For some of us, we seek comfort in food, shopping, or Facebook to quell the emotional turmoil stirring in our hearts. We might busy ourselves with projects or work long hours to keep our mind oﬀ our pain. We might look at our circumstances and seek to change our situation in the hope that we will ﬁnally feel at peace once our life has changed. The truth is, there are many ways we seek relief from the pains and problems of this life and there are many sources that seek to sell us the solution to all our problems. But the question I want to raise to you is, in the midst of all your painful emotions, how often do you look to God in His Word for help and hope? How often do you turn to Him when you feel anxious, distraught, or abandoned? How often do you bring your burdens to your Savior?” (p.16-17)
The reality is, in this fallen world we will have hard and painful emotions enter our life. There’s no denying it or escaping it. But we don’t have to keep our emotions bottled up inside, we don’t have to distract ourselves by filling every moment of our day with activity, and we don’t have to Google every problem we face so as to control our circumstances. God, in his grace, has provided a way for us to face our emotions. In his word, he has given us the Psalms of Lament.
The Psalms of Lament
The book of Psalms contains a variety of different types or genres of psalms. The laments are those dark, emotion laden poems the Israelites sang to God when they were hurt, lonely, afraid, or in despair. They are the passages we often turn to when life is painful, overwhelming, and out of control. That’s because we resonate with them. The laments get what life is like in this fallen world. “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.” (Psalm 55:4-5).
In including the laments in Scripture, God invites us bring our emotions before him. When we read the Psalms of lament, we realize that we don’t have to get ourselves all cleaned up first before we come to the Lord. The psalmist just poured out his heart to the Lord, whatever state it was in. He cried out to God with tears streaming. He told the Lord exactly what was happening to him, how he felt about it, and what God could do about it. “Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth” (Ps. 54:2). He cried out for help, for rescue, and for salvation. He used descriptive adjectives and rich metaphors to get his point across. He was honest and real before his Father in Heaven.
As believers, we are God’s children, adopted into his family, through the blood of his son Jesus. And just like we want our own children to come to us when they are hurt, lost, or afraid, so too our Heavenly Father wants us to come to him with our emotions. No matter how dark or painful they might be. Rather than pretending everything’s okay and trying to do life on our own and in our own strength, God calls us to bring our burdens and cares to him. He alone is our rescuer, redeemer, rock, and refuge. This is what the psalmist knew and why he turned to God in the midst of his sorrow. “I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living” (Psalm 142:5).
The Psalms of Lament are a rich resource of hope for believers. They describe the horrors and sorrows of life in a way that mirrors the pain in our own hearts. There is much we can learn from reading, studying, and even praying the words for ourselves. But above all, the laments remind us that we can turn to God in raw honesty and find our help in him.
Christina Fox is author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including Desiring God and The Gospel Coalition. Christina lives with her husband and two sons in sunny South Florida. She chronicles her faith journey at www.christinafox.com.
Publication date: June 10, 2016