The Power of Biblical Lament

Dr. Steve Viars June 9, 2019 Psalm 13
Outline

Romans 15:14 - And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.

Ephesians 4:31-32 - Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Proverbs 14:10 - The heart knows its own bitterness…

Proverbs 4:23 - Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.

Genesis 49:23 - The archers bitterly attacked him, and shot at him and harassed him…

Exodus 1:13-14 - The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.

1 Samuel 1:6 - Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.

4 characteristics of lament that honors the Lord

I. Addressed to Our God as an Expression of Truth

A. A very helpful resource

B. Starting definitions

“Bitter (OT – Marah, NT – pikros) – sour, brackish taste, the opposite of sweet. The poisonous, putrid bile from the gall bladder. An inner emotional feeling of deep sorrow, or an outwardly directed anger that cries out to the power that seems to be causing the problem.” Theological Wordbook of the OT – p. 528-529

“Lament – The honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness.” Vroegop, p. 26

C. Not just “how long”, but “how long O LORD?”

“It is precisely out of trust that God is sovereign that the psalmist repeatedly brings laments and petitions to the Lord…if the psalmists had already decided the verdict--that God is indeed unfaithful—they would not continue to offer their complaint”

D. Because we believe in God’s power and control

Psalm 10:1 - Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?

Psalm 77:1-2 - My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; My voice rises to God, and He will hear me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness; My soul refused to be comforted.

Habakkuk 1:1-4 - The oracle which Habakkuk the prophet saw. How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save. Why do You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted.

“God is the friend of the honest doubter who dares to talk to God rather than about him. Prayer that includes an element of questioning God may be a means of increasing one’s faith. Expressing doubts and crying out about unfair situations in the universe show one’s trust in God and one’s confidence that God should and does have an answer to humanity’s insoluble problems.” Barker and Bailey – The New American Commentary, Vol. 20

“It takes faith to pray a lament.” Vroegop, p. 31

“He is very much bowed down under the stroke—still he murmurs not, the language of his heart seems to be, ‘I was dumb. I opened not my mouth, because thou God dids’t it.’ Occasionally we hear a suppressed groan as he walks his room with clasped hands.’” David McCollough, The Pioneers

II. Characterized by Heartfelt Concerns and Questions

A. By avoiding both the cliff and the cave

B. Be honest about what is troubling you

How long O lord? (13:1a)

Will you forget me forever? (13:1b)

How long will you hide your face from me? (13:1c)

How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? (13:2a)

How long will my enemy be exalted over me? (13:2b)

“Once you start to see these questions in the Psalms, they jump off the page. These heartfelt questions have been in your Bible all along, but somehow they’ve been easy to miss. It is almost as if we don’t understand the value of bringing our questions to God. Perhaps we think they’re not allowed. Michael Jinkins, in his book In the House of the Lord, reminds us that God can handle our struggles: ‘The psalms of lament open us to the greatness of a God who not only can hear, but also can handle our pain, our self-pity, our blame, and our fear, who can respond to our anger, our disillusionment in the midst of oppression and persecution, under the boot of tyranny and our sense of God-forsakenness in the face of life’s most profound alienations and exiles.’ These psalms give us permission—even encouragement—to lay out our struggles, even if they are with God himself.” Vroegop

C. And in so doing, be more like our Savior

Acts 2:29-31 - Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay.

III. Filled with Bold Requests and Petitions

Hebrews 4:14-16 - Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

A. To arise and address the injustice

Psalm 13:3a - Consider and answer me, O Lord my God

Psalm 10:12 - Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up Your hand. Do not forget the afflicted.

Psalm 3:7 - Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God!

B. To help you understand what is occurring

Psalm 13:3b - Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death…

C. To keep His promises

Psalm 25:6 - Remember, O Lord, Your compassion and Your lovingkindnesses, for they have been from of old.

D. To perform justice

Psalm 83:16-18 - Fill their faces with dishonor, that they may seek Your name, O Lord. Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever, and let them be humiliated and perish, That they may know that You alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.

E. To forgive your sins

Psalm 79:9 - Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; and deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.

F. To teach you as you wait

“I shall look at the word through tears. Perhaps I shall see things that dry-eyed I could not see.” Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son, p. 127 – Kindle

Psalm 86:11 - Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.

G. To vindicate you in His time

Psalm 35:23-24 - Stir up Yourself, and awake to my right and to my cause, my God and my Lord. Judge me, O Lord my God, according to Your righteousness, and do not let them rejoice over me.

IV. Concluded with a Commitment to Trust and Praise

Psalm 13:5-6 - But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.

- Just a few weeks after we arrived in Lafayette nearly 32 years now, I had one of those experiences that taught a life-long lesson about serving as a pastor…

- I was hired by our former senior pastor Bill Goode to serve as his associate with the plan that at some point, pending congregational approval, we would switch places…

- so I came here to first serve under his leadership and learn everything I could since he was 30 years older than me and far more experienced…

- on one of the first Wednesday nights we were in town, we were driving over the church’s evening prayer meeting and youth programs when I happened to look over at the car next to us and there was a young married woman we had just recently met, but she was in the car with a man other than her husband…

- now, I didn’t wake up that morning to try to get into it with someone…or stick my nose in someone else’s business…

- but I was new at Faith and I wasn’t sure what Pastor Goode would want me to do with that information…

- so I thought, in submission to him, I should tell him what I observed and just ask for clarification on what, if anything, he wanted me to do…

- now I should probably preface this with – I really didn’t like confrontation…I tended to clam up when I was mad or upset…so my pattern would have been to just ignore it – stay out of it…but I figured I better start out on the right foot in my new job by at least mentioning it…

- so the next morning we were in the office going over several things when I casually mentioned what I had observed the night before…and Pastor Goode said, we need to talk with them about that…

- now, I interpreted that to mean – we’re should talk with them about that some day in the distant future but not anytime soon and in reality, probably not ever…

- that is not what Pastor Goode meant at all…because while he was saying it…he was swiveling around in his chair and reaching for his hat…

- and our long-time members will recall – he didn’t go anywhere in any season without a hat…

- and then he put his overcoat on which was kind-of a sign that I better find my coat…

- and the next things I know – we’re driving over to this young couple’s house…

- Pastor Goode was also old school when it came to visiting people – and by that I mean, forget about calling ahead or making an appointment…

- and he knew this young couple – far better of course than I did…and he knew the woman’s husband worked second shift so they should both be home that morning…

- so over we go – and on the way I’m thinking – I wish I hadn’t brought this up – Steve, you need to learn to keep your mouth shut – this is not going to end well – what if these people have firearms?...

- next thing I know we’re standing on the front porch – we ring the bell…(please don’t be home—please don’t be home…)

- of course they’re home…they invite us down…we had about 30 seconds of pleasantries at which time Pastor Goode looks right at me and says – “now tell them what you just told me…”

- (you talk about reconsidering your career path…)

- so I had no choice – and I did…

- and what happened next was fascinating…the young couple started crying…and said, thank you so much for watching over our marriage…

- and as it turned out – the husband did work second shift – and they only had one working car – so the wife was with a cousin – and they were actually driving over to the same church service I was…

- now I felt pretty foolish at that moment (I wish I could tell you that’s the last time that’s happened)…but I did learn a very important ministry lesson that day…

- don’t let problems go…they have to be addressed…they have to be faced…they have to be discussed…they have to be solved…

- one of our foundational verses as a congregation is and has been - Romans 15:14 - And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.

- Pastor Goode drilled that into our younger staff members…solve today’s problems today…he used to say – problems are like guppies in a church, you can either deal with the two you have today, or the thousand you’re going to have next week…

- I think many of us would say – for all sorts of reasons – we don’t like to do that…

- I realize there are few here who might naturally enjoy confrontation and addressing problems…but many of us don’t…and that omission can be very, very costly…

- now let me ask you this…is it ever possible for us to behave that way…in our relationship with the Lord?...

- where there is something we don’t understand…or we don’t like…that we know theologically God has allowed because we know He’s sovereign…He’s in control…

- but instead of swirling around in our chair, and reaching for our hat and top-coat – and jumping into the vehicle of prayer and getting it on the table…between us and the Lord…we ignore the question, or the concern, or the complaint…maybe for reasons we think are good…or ones we’re pretty sure are bad…

- but to whatever degree that’s true – what impact does that have on our relationship with the Lord…and what relationship might it have to the cultivation of sinful bitterness?...

- with all of that in mind – please open you Bible to Psalm 13…page ____ of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

- this summer we’re doing a series entitled Growing by Overcoming Bitterness…

- we began this discussion last week and we saw that God’s Word speaks about bitterness in three very distinct ways…we gave them in what we might call “reverse order” on purpose

- A Bitter Lifestyle

- this is what’s most recognizable…when we’re speaking bitter words or acting in bitter ways…full-on bitterness…

- so when Paul says -- Ephesians 4:31–32 - Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

- he’s listed bitterness alongside an entire list of behaviors…so the focus here is on the actions, the behaviors, what we do with our mouths and our hands…that’s what we mean by a bitter lifestyle…we can all recognize it, we all know it’s sinful, and I hope all committed to try to avoid living in that way…but perhaps not surprisingly for those who are used to studying the Word of God…Scripture also emphasizes…

- A Bitter Heart…

- this is the part of us that no one else can see…

- this is where our thoughts and our emotions and our beliefs and our values and our desires reside…

- this is what produces our behavior…and where the change process especially needs to be focused and where/what the gospel can especially impact…so the Bible tells us…

- Proverbs 14:10 - The heart knows its own bitterness…

- now we’re talking about an entirely different level of this conversation…

- this is why we’re to -- Proverbs 4:23 - Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.

- so if this series is going to live up to its name [overcoming bitterness], for sure we are going to have to give careful attention to both aspects of what the Word of God emphasizes…

- and we also need to point out – you and I are responsible for both of those categories…

- the gospel is powerful enough to change us at the level of the hands, and even at the level of the heart…Jesus died, was buried, and rose again so that could occur…

- however, what is surprising to many of us about this subject is – the Word of God also speaks often and powerfully about…

- Bitter Circumstances

- Joseph’s brother’s shot bitter arrows at him-- Genesis 49:23 - The archers bitterly attacked him, and shot at him and harassed him;

- the Egyptians purposely made the working conditions for the children of Israel bitter -- Exodus 1:13–14 - The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.

- Hannah’s rival Peninnah reacted to Hannah’s infertility with bitter mocking -- 1 Samuel 1:6 - Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb.

- this is an aspect of bitterness that is completely different than the first 2 categories…Joseph and the children of Israel and Hannah were not in any way responsible for the bitter circumstances they faced…meaning bitterness is not first and foremost a response…it’s first and foremost a reality….for all of us…

- but here’s the point thus far – how we react to the bitter circumstances in our lives will have a great impact on whether we move into sinful bitterness of heart and life for which we are very much responsible – or move in an entirely different direction…

- and the problem for some of us, and perhaps many of us…is that we function in our relationship with the Lord…the way I wanted to function with that young couple at the beginning of my ministry…let’s talk about that some other day…

- and the opposite of that approach is The Power of Biblical Lament

- we’re told that as many as 1/3 of the Psalms in the Bible are lament Psalms…please think about that – as much of 1/3 of the hymnal for the Children of Israel (which is one way to think about the Psalms) is written in the minor key…

- obviously the book of Lamentations is one long lament by the prophet Jeremiah after the fall of Jerusalem and the beginning of the 70 year Babylonian captivity…

- there are other laments throughout the Word of God…

- and I would just ask you this morning – how skilled are you at the art of biblical lament?...

- does your relationship with the Lord include this characteristic, and to what degree?...

- and I think many of us would say – I’m not particularly comfortable with this because I don’t ever want to speak disrespectfully to or about the Lord…that’s good, at least to a point…

- or I have so much for which to be thankful…I don’t want to be a complainer…especially to my God…that’s good too, to a point…

- but why is material like this in the Bible?...and if we don’t learn to practice this in response to the bitter circumstances of our lives…how much more likely is it that we will fall into, or remain in, the habits of sinful bitterness of heart and life?...

- we’re going to start with a shorter lament Psalm – Psalm 13 – just to get a feel for what this kind of material is like (and to be a framework for our remaining outline this am) – then we’ll read a slightly longer one…

- please ask yourself when the last time was you had a conversation like this with the Lord…

- read Psalm 13

- read Psalm 10

- so we’re talking about The Power of Biblical Lament this morning, and with the time we have remaining, let’s think about 4 characteristics of lament that honors the Lord

I. Addressed to Our God as an Expression of Truth

- now, let me just mention…

A. A very helpful resource

- Pastor Mark Vroegop from down at College Park Church in Indy has just published an excellent book on this subject…

- you may not know this – but Faith along with a number of other churches in IN banded together over 30 years ago and helped plant what is now College Park – and I only mention that to emphasize that we are very much in line with them theologically and have found this book to be very helpful for this particular message and am drawing on it significantly…

- our pastors don’t just preach sermons that other pastors have given – but we are voracious readers…and if we ever say anything that sounds even remotely profound, we probably got it from someone else…

B. Starting definitions

- I realize that last week we didn’t take the time to even define bitterness…maybe that’s because some words don’t even need to be defined…but just in case…

- Bitter (OT – Marah, NT – pikros) – sour, brackish taste, the opposite of sweet. The poisonous, putrid bile from the gall bladder. An inner emotional feeling of deep sorrow, or an outwardly directed anger that cries out to the power that seems to be causing the problem (Theological Wordbook of the OT – p. 528-529).

- Lament – The honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness (Vroegop, p. 26).

- but what we saw in each Psalm we read and anywhere else we would turn in God’s Word is…a biblical lament is…

C. Not just “how long”, but “how long O LORD?”

- one of the reasons we might be tempted not to speak to the Lord this way is because might think doing so is disrespectful…when actually, the exact opposite is true…

- “It is precisely out of trust that God is sovereign that the psalmist repeatedly brings laments and petitions to the Lord. . . if the psalmists had already decided the verdict--that God is indeed unfaithful—they would not continue to offer their complaint” (Todd Billings, Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life in Christ, p. 58-59).

- so in lament, we are saying to the Lord – there’s a gap between what I believe is true about you, and what I seem to be experiencing just now…and I don’t understand it…and I don’t like it…and I’m asking for clarification

D. Because we believe in God’s power and control

- the evidence of this is everyone in these kinds of Psalms…

- so Psalm 13 starts that way…as does Psalm 10…

- Psalm 10:1 - Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?...I want to talk about this and I need to talk about this…

- Psalm 77:1–2 - My voice rises to God, and I will cry aloud; My voice rises to God, and He will hear me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; In the night my hand was stretched out without weariness; My soul refused to be comforted.

- another fascinating example of lament is the beginning of the book of Habakkuk… Habakkuk 1:1–4 - The oracle which Habakkuk the prophet saw. How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will not hear? I cry out to You, “Violence!” Yet You do not save. Why do You make me see iniquity, and cause me to look on wickedness? Yes, destruction and violence are before me; strife exists and contention arises. Therefore the law is ignored and justice is never upheld. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore justice comes out perverted.

- this was before the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon…and Habakkuk is talking about God’s own people…and he doesn’t understand why God is allowing his own people to behave so sinfully without judgment…so what does he do…he goes to the Lord…and he utters a lament…

- and the way this connects to the overall topic of bitterness is – if you want to avoid the latter 2 categories of bitterness – a sinful heart and a sinful lifestyle…then learn to respond to bitter circumstances with biblical lament…go early and often to the Lord and speak honestly and openly about your questions and your concerns…

- what’s amazing, by the way, about the book of Habakkuk is – the Lord immediately answers him – by essentially saying – well, thanks for asking…what you don’t know is…I am about to judge by people, at the hand of the wicked Babylonians…

- which leads Habakkuk into an entirely different litany of…laments…

- I really appreciate what one writer said about that… “God is the friend of the honest doubter who dares to talk to God rather than about him. Prayer that includes an element of questioning God may be a means of increasing one’s faith. Expressing doubts and crying out about unfair situations in the universe show one’s trust in God and one’s confidence that God should and does have an answer to humanity’s insoluble problems.” (Barker and Bailey – The New American Commentary, Vol. 20)

- that’s why Mark Vroegop said – “It takes faith to pray a lament” (Vroegop, p. 31).

- I would just ask you this morning – is it possible that your thinking on that particular point needs to change?...

- this goes back to the story we mentioned last week about Ephraim Cutler in David McCollough’s book “The Pioneers”

- Cutler was a very godly man who was used to have a Christian influence in the early history of the state of Ohio which has stood the test of time…but when his eldest son died very unexpectedly of cholera while searching for gold in CA – Cutler wouldn’t talk about it to God or anyone else because of an incorrect interpretation of Psalm 39 – his daughter said of her father - He is very much bowed down under the stroke—still he murmurs not, the language of his heart seems to be, “I was dumb. I opened not my mouth, because thou God dids’t it.” Occasionally we hear a suppressed groan as he walks his room with clasped hands.’”

- it would appear that when Mr. Cutler needed to be speaking to God the most – his incorrect theology on this particular point, though I have no doubt it was well-intentioned, led him to choose to talk to God the least.

- so, biblical laments are addressed to our God as an expression of trust and they are…

II. Characterized by Heartfelt Concerns and Questions

- one of the emphases that I especially found helpful from Pastor Vroegop is when he spoke about the importance of…

A. By avoiding both the cliff and the cave

- what he meant by that is the person standing on the cliff of unrestrained anger screaming obscenities at God in ways that are proud and accusatory…in other words, if I don’t understand it then it can’t be understood, or if it’s not working out in my experience the way I want it to right here, right now, then it can’t be true…

- that’s not biblical lament…but neither is hiding in the cave and refusing to say anything to anyone at anytime…

- and – thinking of our 3 categories of bitterness – the cliff of unrestrained anger or the cave of resigned stoicism will both lead to both a bitter heart and a bitter life…

- so, if we let these passages be our guide…

B. Be honest about what is troubling you

  • How long O lord? (13:1a)
  • Will you forget me forever? (13:1b)
  • How long will you hide your face from me? (13:1c)
  • How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? (13:2a)
  • How long will my enemy be exalted over me? (13:2b)

[as time allows, read portions of Psalm 77]

“Once you start to see these questions in the Psalms, they jump off the page. These heartfelt questions have been in your Bible all along, but somehow they’ve been easy to miss. It is almost as if we don’t understand the value of bringing our questions to God. Perhaps we think they’re not allowed. Michael Jinkins, in his book In the House of the Lord, reminds us that God can handle our struggles: ‘The psalms of lament open us to the greatness of a God who not only can hear, but also can handle our pain, our self-pity, our blame, and our fear, who can respond to our anger, our disillusionment in the midst of oppression and persecution, under the boot of tyranny and our sense of God-forsakenness in the face of life’s most profound alienations and exiles.’ These psalms give us permission—even encouragement—to lay out our struggles, even if they are with God himself.”

- now, I realize you might say – PV, I cannot imagine myself speaking to the Lord like this…

- for many of us – if that is our response to this material, I know it is well-intentioned…but let me respond somewhat provocatively because for some of us, that’s what we might especially need to be motivated to change…

- I thought you wanted to be like Jesus…

C. And in so doing, be more like our Savior

- here’s another Psalm of lament…and we believe it was written by David although the debate among Bible scholars is how this could have referred to anything in David’s literal experience in his day and time…

- the apostle Peter actually entered that discussion in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost when he too quoted David in another place that clearly spoke about Christ 1000 years later…Acts 2:29–31 - “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. “And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay.

- so we don’t know what was happening in David’s life that would have been the context in which he penned Psalm 22…but we’ll clearly recognize it as being quoted directly by our suffering Savior…

- [as time allows, read selected portions of Psalm 22]…

- friend, do you know what this means…even while our Savior was dying for our sin, in fulfillment of the Scripture…He was practicing biblical lament…

- if it was right and necessary for Him…surely it is right and necessary for us…

- now it doesn’t stop there…students of Scripture generally divide Psalms of lament in four parts…an address to God, a complaint, a request, an expression of trust/praise

- and that should be true of the way we pray to the Lord as well…

III. Filled with Bold Requests and Petitions

- and I realize we may be uncomfortable with the word bold in this setting…but remember how the writer of Hebrews said it…followers of Christ are urged to…

- Hebrews 4:14–16 - Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

- and I don’t know what other word we could use but “bold” to do justice to what we read in these Psalms of lament…

A. To arise and address the injustice

  • Psalm 13:3a - Consider and answer me, O Lord my God
  • Psalm 10:12 - Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up Your hand. Do not forget the afflicted.
  • Psalm 3:7 - Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God!

- instead of wallowing in thoughts and inactivity that leads to bitterness – why not pray with this kind of expectancy?

B. To help you understand what is occurring

  • Psalm 13:3b - Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,

C. To keep His promises

  • Psalm 25:6 - Remember, O Lord, Your compassion and Your lovingkindnesses, for they have been from of old.

- not, remember in the sense that you believe the Lord has forgotten, but you are asking the Lord to close the gap between the statement of the promise and the fulfillment in your particular circumstances

D. To perform justice

  • Psalm 83:16–18 - Fill their faces with dishonor, that they may seek Your name, O Lord. Let them be ashamed and dismayed forever, and let them be humiliated and perish, That they may know that You alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.

- we believe that vengeance belongs to the Lord – but there is nothing wrong as we lament to pray that God will deal with injustice in His way and His time and for grace as we wait patiently until He chooses to make things right…

E. To forgive your sins

- we saw this last week – bitter circumstances remind us painfully of the reality of sin in our world and that invariably causes us to think about our own sin…

- so proper lament includes words like…

  • Psalm 79:9 - Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; and deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.

F. To teach you as you wait

- “I shall look at the word through tears. Perhaps I shall see things that dry-eyed I could not see” (Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son, p. 127 – Kindle)

  • Psalm 86:11 - Teach me Your way, O Lord; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.

G. To vindicate you in His time

  • Psalm 35:23–24 - Stir up Yourself, and awake to my right and to my cause, my God and my Lord. Judge me, O Lord my God, according to Your righteousness, and do not let them rejoice over me.

- if we were to unpack your prayers over the last week, or month – how many of them sound anything like the prayers of lament we’re reading this am?...

- and is it possible – that some of us have set ourselves up for a bitter heart and life because we have not followed this biblical model of speaking authentically to the Lord?

IV. Concluded with a Commitment to Trust and Praise

- we see that very clearly and simply and profoundly in Psalm 13…

  • Psalm 13:5–6 - But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.

- I believe that if we are going to overcome bitterness as individuals and as a church, we are going to have to dip our toes in the practice of lament…

- so my challenge to you is to write out a prayer of lament to the Lord…about some injustice in your own life, or in our country, or our world…

- consider buying and reading Vroegop’s book or others like it…

- follow the pattern we find in simple and direct Psalms like Psalm 13…

- we had a great example of this at Purdue this past school year…

- the story of Tyler Trent is one for the ages…

- Tyler was a member at College Park…and here’s a prayer of lament that Pastor Vroegop wrote that went viral during those days and is a good example of what we’re talking about this am…

Oh Lord, we turn to you on this hard and painful day. We look to you, the author of life and the giver of grace, because our hearts are broken with grief. A young man, so full of life and joy, is gone. We grieve the loss of Tyler.

How long, O Lord must cancer steal our loved ones away? This evil disease doesn’t fit with your goodness. It mars, destroys, and kills. We hate its presence in the world.

Lord, we prayed for healing. And your answer is hard to accept. We watched our friend and brother persevere. But twenty years doesn’t seem long enough for Tyler. We’d rather have different ending to this story. We long for the day when Osteosarcoma is no longer a part of our vocabulary or our prayers.

Yet we know that you have purposes beyond what we can see.

We witnessed glimpses of your plan in the meteoric rise of Tyler’s story. We marveled at the favor and the kindness showered upon him through his journey. We rejoiced at the platform you gave him to share his faith.

And now Lord, we ask you to bring comfort to Tyler’s family. They’ve walked beside him through every step in this journey. They need your grace both now and in the months and years to come.

We pray for wisdom and creativity for those researching treatment for cancer. We ask that Tyler’s donated tumor and the money raised might yield life-saving options for future cancer patients. Would you heal many from Tyler’s death?

But even more Jesus, we ask for your name to be lifted high through Tyler’s life.

You were the bedrock of his strength. You were the one who captivated his heart and gave him hope as his physical strength declined. We pray that thousands – even millions – of people will be led to the kind of relationship that Tyler shared with you.

Lord, on this hard day we choose to trust you. We believe you have ordained eternal purposes that we can’t see right now. We believe that you gave Tyler the grace he needed to persevere.

We believe that Jesus rose from the dead so that one day our tears will be wiped away – once and for all. Through our pain and questions, we rest our hope in the One who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live even though they die” (John 11:25).

We know this was the strength that made #tylerstrong. We saw it because Tyler lived it.

Dr. Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video