A personal experience – Taken from my research essay on Lament

hopelessLife is full of storms. These storms are unavoidable. When these storms arise, there is a strong desire to get out of the storms as quickly as possible. Prayers asking God to provide a quick fix becomes the norm. However, not all storms let up with these quick fix prayers. There are many storms where prayers to God bring no ease to their fury. Instead, they get worse causing intense grief and pain.

My own personal experience over the past five years of journeying through increasingly furious storms has led me to this belief. It started with a family trauma that I became aware of in 2008. This trauma kept escalating till 2012. The pain and grief of that trauma still remains today, with its effects leading to further traumas that also continue on. Then, in September 2010, the earthquakes hit Christchurch. The grief and pain I had to deal with as I pastored a church and provided support to a devastated community has multiplied as people try to come to terms of living in a city that will never be the same again. Dealing with the aftermath of the earthquakes and the effects in the eastern suburbs continues to have a negative impact on the lives of people that I am supporting. Finally, another family trauma hit a few months ago causing my wife and I a huge amount of stress trying to provide support for family members who not only live alone in another city but are also struggling to come to terms with this same trauma.

All these storms changed the world that I was used to and caused me much grief, anger and pain. As a consequence, I am no longer the same person that I was a few years ago. I have spent the last couple of years asking “Why”. “Why do I have to face such furious storms?” “Why does God allow this to happen to me?” “Why is God increasing the intensity of these storms and not hearing my prayers to free me?” These storms have knocked me back and left me feeling powerless, making me more negative, more reactive and more aggressive as I seek to keep my head above water.

I am now however, at the stage where the “why” questions no longer bother me. I spent five years asking the “why” questions but God remained silent. It was as if he had forsaken me as I struggled through those five years trying to make sense of the pain and grief that I felt. From feeling abandoned, I have now shifted from wanting to know “why” to wanting to know “How”. “How can I live within these circumstances that I am in?” “How can I swim through these storms of life instead of being overwhelmed by the rough seas?” I am accepting of the fact that my world has changed. The family traumas and the earthquakes have changed that with which I was once familiar and have created a new world. My conclusion is that the only way I can survive is to come to terms with this new world and learn to live in that new world. It is as Pemberton says, “We live in a world that is beyond our control, and life is in a constant flux of change. So we have a decision to make; keep trying to control a storm that is not going to go away or to start learning how to live within the rain”[1].

One way that I have found an ability to survive in this new reality is by reading the Psalms. I have found an affinity in the psalms of lament in which the psalmists seem to have gone through what I have been going through. This essay, using my own personal journey as an illustration, explores how the Psalms of Lament can provide a model to help people going through deep pain and grief to find a path that takes them from disorientation to reorientation. This faith journey will help people discover a new faith in which to face a new normal.

[1] Glenn Pemberton, Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms (Texas: ACU Press, 2012), 23.

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