Groaning Before the Lord
Yet, even if God does not “owe” me a particular lifespan, the stinging questions are unavoidable: Why would God take away my children’s father in the middle of their childhood?
I have watched others die. I knew a cancer patient whose family prayed and prayed for healing. But his healing didn’t come—and death came before anyone expected. His path of suffering seemed senseless. Was that the path I was destined to walk?
Moreover, for years my wife and I prayed for children. And our prayers had been answered. But to what end? Was God toying with us? I join the psalmist in lament: “He has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days. ‘O my God,’ I say, ‘take me not away in the midst of my days—you whose years endure throughout all generations!’” (Psalm 102.23–24″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Psalm 102:23–24).
Through the Psalms, God gave me a means to bring my anger and confusion into his presence. Again and again, in communal and personal prayer, I began to see how my suffering is part of a much larger drama—for God is bigger than cancer.
Hoping Enough to Lament
I was not given a magical answer as to why God allowed my cancer to hit me. I still don’t know what the future holds. But the Psalms have paved a path for me to rest in the hands of the Almighty, delighting in his work, even when it is a strange work, a hard work on the road of suffering.
In the moments of darkest anguish, the psalmist shows us that God accepts our rawest laments: “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people” (Psalm 22:6).
In the moments of darkest anguish, the psalmist shows us that God accepts our rawest laments. Tweet
But even in the darkness the Psalms are shot through with hope because God’s covenant promises are ever at the center. While some Psalms are songs of exuberant praise, jumping up and down in exultation that God is truly the God he promises to be, many other Psalms, like the one Jesus prays on the cross, are Psalms of lament.
Yet, even the darkness of this anguished cry of lament points to God’s promise: “My God, my God.” Even when he feels abandoned, the psalmist brings his burden before the Almighty. “Why have you forsaken me?” Only those who know they belong to God can press this question to God. God promises that he will not abandon or forsake his people (Psalm 94:14). Thus, it is an act of trust and hope to lament—to remind God of this promise when things seem desolate, when God’s promise seems to ring hollow.
In this way, lament is not just “venting” toward God, dumping our emotions upon him. It is bringing our confusion, anger and even protest before the Almighty, allowing the Spirit to reshape our lives and affections into Christ’s image, and all in the security of God-centered hope.