April 17, 2020
With lockdowns and stay at home orders in place, the coronavirus is affecting everyone’s life, and Christians are not exempt from the sorrows that the world is experiencing. Ever since the fall into sin in Genesis 3, death, loss, and grief have been a common human experience.
Even so, many Christians are hesitant to admit their disappointment or sorrow. This is because we often believe that grief shows a lack of faith in God. But the lamentations throughout Scripture disprove this misguided perception. In fact, the Bible contains many examples of people lamenting. Even Jesus wept openly over the death of his friend Lazarus (Luke 10:35). Experiencing grief reminds us that this world is not as it’s supposed to be. But Scripture also teaches that everything—including our grief—can work together for good (Rom. 8:28). In this coronavirus season, it’s time that Christians learned how to lament and embrace their sorrow as a way to hope in God.
Death, sickness, and suffering afflict everyone: Christians and unbelievers alike. But as Christians encounter afflictions, their grief should be different than an unbeliever’s. In Mark Vroegop’s article “Dare to Hope in God” he says, “To cry is human, but to lament is Christian.” Lamenting is different than natural grief because it turns grief into a prayer. Through the three stages of a lamentation—crying out to God, asking for help, and responding in trust and praise—Christians learn to be real with God about our pain, rely on Him, and acknowledge our trust in Him.
In the first step of lament, God invites us to cry out to Him. This is difficult for some Christians who believe we must approach the throne of God in a put-together fashion. This most certainly excludes deep grief. But we forget that God knows our every thought, and our darkness is not dark to Him (Ps. 139:2, 12). God is not put off by our grief or the possible doubts that accompany it. He wants to hear our heart. In this season, almost everyone is experiencing loss: loss of a loved one, a job, not being able to visit sick or elderly family members, loss of wedding plans, graduation ceremonies, and sport seasons for athletes and spectators. Everyone is affected in some way by this virus, and it is painful. No grievance is too little or big for God. We can tell God we’re frustrated, deeply hurting, or angered by changes or loss.
A biblical example of someone honestly voicing their aching heart to God is found in Psalm 10. In this passage, the psalmist boldly asks God, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Ps. 10:1). Clearly, the writer feels abandoned by God and candidly tells Him: I don’t feel You here. This cry—and the affirmation of God’s goodness expressed at the psalm’s conclusion—demonstrate an important truth: God can handle our strongest emotions, even when we struggle to believe His promises.
Second, a lament’s raw cry to God is followed by a request for help. Sometimes we are uncomfortable with being needy towards God. But this is the foundation of the gospel: that we need Jesus to restore us to God. Paul reminds us that if God did “not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). God is a good Father who encourages us to ask (Matt. 7:7-11). Whether we are asking God to provide the means to pay for groceries during this economic recession, asking for healing for a dying family member, or asking for a way to see college friends or a significant other, we do not need to be ashamed of the request, regardless of its perceived importance. He promises that He will supply every need of ours (Phil. 4:19).
This truth is evidenced again by the psalmist when he pleads with God: “Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted” (Ps. 10:12). Evidently, there were times in the writer’s life when he needed help. He knew that God was able to rescue him from any situation, so he persisted and didn’t hold back in asking his Creator for help.
The final stage of a lamentation focuses on expressing praise to God and declaring our trust in Him. Despite our feelings, God has promised to never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). When we praise God for how He specifically provided in our personal lives or praise Him for the promises that He gives us in His Word, we shift our minds from our changing and uncertain situations to the unchanging, faithful Savior. While God wants to hear our worries about the coronavirus or hear about what is breaking our heart in this season of loss, His deeper desire is to see us learn to rely on Him, regardless of our situation.
Despite the psalmist’s own feelings that God had abandoned him, he ends by saying, “O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more” (Ps. 10:17-18).
As the coronavirus continues to rage around the globe, Christians must remember that we can grieve the losses in our lives. Whatever the loss, God wants to hear our hearts. In this stretching and trying time, it is important to be honest with God about our pain and learn to rely on Him for help. As we do this, we can say with David, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Ps. 13:5-6).