It’s been a tough year for me. While 2018 was filled with creative, financial, and relational blessing, 2019 has been much more difficult.
My wife, Quina, and I have dealt with her ministry burnout and discouraging health issues, along with her grandmother’s death, relational strains with people we love, deferred hopes to conceive another child, and the deportation of my aunt and uncle.
After experiencing so much answered prayer in 2018, this year’s unanswered prayers and unmet desires have done a number on our hearts. You pray and fast and act for something—something as good as justice or reconciliation or healing or a child—but the answer is still “No” or “Not yet.” I’ve discovered that my heart can be so easily filled with bitterness against God as I struggle to reconcile his goodness with the suffering happening all around me.
If God is the God of justice, of reconciliation, of deliverance, of life, then what does it look like to trust him when injustice comes, division remains, and death mocks? How can we still confidently proclaim, “Our God is faithful”—and actually mean it?
Deliverance In, Not From
First, we must acknowledge the ways God is delivering us in our trials, even when he hasn’t delivered us from our trials. Or as Elihu put it, “He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity” (Job 36:15).
God is delivering us in our trials, even when he hasn’t delivered us from our trials.
I would be lying if I said God hasn’t been delivering me in the midst of these trials. I have felt my compassion deepen for the oppressed as my family and I have tasted the injustice of a broken immigration system. I’ve learned to better serve my wife in her health limitations and grief. I’ve grown more honest in my prayer life, which has only drawn me closer to God rather than driven me from him.
Perhaps the sweetest balm of grace in my trials this year has been the steady presence, prayers, and support of my friends and church family. They have shared in my trials in such a way that even when I don’t want to believe it, I can’t help but admit that God sees me and cares for me.
Our Wounded Healer
Second, we must know that our God isn’t just a healer, but a wounded healer, as Henri Nouwen put it. How did Jesus heal our wounds of sin? With his own wounds (Isa. 53:5).
We serve the only God with scars (Luke 24:39–40; John 20:20, 27; Rev. 5:12). The only God willing to take on human flesh and the human experience of pain and limitations, who then took on the full weight of human sin and lived to tell the tale.
Do you know this God? He is the wounded healer who sympathizes with your weaknesses and afflictions. He is the God who gave himself as his greatest gift. Even in the darkness, as the pain settles in, we can proclaim, “Our God is faithful”—and truly mean it.
Proclaim Him in Lament
Last, we can use the voice and the gifts God has given us to proclaim his faithfulness. How do we do this? The psalmists knew it well: we lament.
In his book Prophetic Lament, Soong Chan-Rah states, “Lament challenges the church to acknowledge real suffering and plead with God for his intervention.” What would it look like if your family gatherings, your small group, and your church were consistently marked with Godward lament over injustices and suffering? Perhaps it would look a bit more like Christ himself.
Biblical lament calls us to passionately express our grief, our complaints, our questions, even our anger to God. It calls for messy, inarticulate, snot-filled prayers. It calls for honesty when someone asks, “How can I pray for you?” And it demands that our triumphal assumptions about the Christian life be confronted by the Savior who was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3).
As I’m learning soul honesty with God and others, lament has been a challenging yet refreshing opportunity to lean more deeply into the arms of my faithful Father. I pour out my heart to God in lament, and I rise with much greater conviction that he is, indeed, faithful.
More Faithful Representation
It’s easy for us to only see the highlight reel of people’s lives on social media. But I hope that through our various callings, we can more honestly portray the Christian walk.
That walk that includes both mountaintops and valleys. Lots of valleys. The walk acknowledges the deliverance of our wounded healer, even when the darkness hasn’t fully lifted. And the walk is marked by the kind of lament that exalts God’s faithfulness over and above our own.
This is how we’ll be able to say, “God is faithful”—and truly mean it.