Sharon W. Betters
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! (Job 19:25-27, ESV).
As soon as their family meal ended, Hannah found a private corner of the temple where the desire of her heart drove her to the arms of God. Here she freely laments and pleads with God, not knowing there was a witness to her unbridled emotions:
After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman (1 Samuel 1:9-13, ESV).
Picture Hannah, totally undone, perhaps prostrate before the altar, arms outstretched before her God, tears streaming down her cheeks, her mouth forming desperate words, pleading for God to fill her empty womb. What a picture of true lament. Recording artist and author Michael Card says this about lament:
“It seems to me that we do not need to be taught how to lament since we have so many models in Scripture. What we need is simply the assurance that it’s okay to lament. We all carry deep within ourselves a pressurized reservoir of tears. It takes only the right key at the right time to unlock them. In God’s perfect time, these tears can be released to form a healing flood. That’s the beauty and the mystery of the prayer of lament.”
Until the death of our son, I did not understand lament or that biblical lament is a form of worship. But in the months and years after his fatal car accident, I frequently poured out torrents of grief, begging God for answers, trying to reconcile His love with His sovereignty. Those periods of unhindered wailing and weeping left me more exhausted but eventually comforted because God did not reject me. Instead, He held me tightly in His grip.
As Michael Card said, “tears can be released to form a healing flood. That’s the beauty and the mystery of the prayer of lament.”
Prayers of lament can bring us deeper into the heart of God and isn’t that one purpose of worship? Read Today’s Treasure again. Job lost everything. He wrestled with God, longing to understand God’s purposes, unwilling to lose God’s presence. Lament brought Job face to face with His God. Lament is not a sign of weak faith. Instead, the lament brings our sorrow into God’s presence, refusing to believe God has abandoned us.
Hannah’s lament reveals that she knows God closed her womb and now she appeals to His love and grace. She begs Him to remember her, to see her, to hear her. No sound comes out of her mouth as she forms the words of her plea, yet she is so emotionally distraught that Eli the priest concludes she is drunk.
Are you distraught today? Are you trying to “be brave” yet your insides feel like a ticking time bomb? Is it time for you to lament before your God? Find a physically quiet place where you can be alone for a block of time. Deliberately put aside your phone, computer, and any other distraction. Ask the Holy Spirit to turn your heart toward Jesus and open up the floodgate of emotions. Write down the circumstances that crush you and seem impossible to resolve. Express your agony and frustration to God, acknowledging that He knows and He is sovereign. Imagine holding each painful circumstance in clenched hands. Raise those hands to God and slowly open each one, offering those hard places to God as a sacrifice of praise.
Next week we will unpack Hannah’s actual prayer, but tomorrow watch as her countenance changes through lament.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sharon W. Betters is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, pastor’s wife, and cofounder of MARKINC Ministries, where she is the Director of Resource Development. Sharon is the author of several books, including Treasures of Encouragement, Treasures in Darkness, and co-author with Susan Hunt of Aging with Grace. She is the co-host of the Help & Hope podcast and writes Daily Treasure, an online devotional.
For more from Daily Treasure please visit MARKINC.ORG.