Welcome to Part 6 of Arise and Shine. Today, Bettie is introducing us to the Breath of God that arises in our open and honest laments. Bettie and Anna also welcome you to join them in prayer at the end of this post. We both look forward to sharing the chapters for this new part with you soon, which we will add to the bottom of this post.
Have you explored Biblical Lament? I must admit, when I first read this phrase several years ago, I thought it sounded just a bit antiquated, for another era or time. However, as I was reading Discovering Hope, by Cindee Snider Re, I found a beautiful perspective on the subject of suffering and expressing our hearts to God.
I realized that many of my favorite Psalms are actually Biblical Laments:
“O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.”
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
I grew up in a strict church setting, where GOOD was always emphasized. Consequently, many have attributed a kindness to me personally that may have just been one more way that my church-girl self chose to keep the GOOD-RULE activated.
My older brothers will never forget my “God-Forgive” Stage. Any time I saw myself (or anyone in my close circle, for that matter) speak or do anything out of line, I was quick to speak, “Better say ‘God forgive!’” Cute, coming from a 7-year-old, but rather excessive when I’ve realized I still carry the trappings of that 7-year-old thought process in my heart today.
Speaking a dark thought? “Say God-Forgive!”
Uttering a harsh phrase? “Say God-Forgive!”
Mulling over doubt-filled questions? “Say God-Forgive!”
But where does all of that leave a person who is cluttered with questions about the dreary days that chronic illness creates? . . .
Drifting in a barren land where the breath is quenched and searching is cut off. In a culture that idolizes fitness and health, the quenching days easily multiply to become a state of denial. And “OK” becomes the rote answer for how we are feeling.
Have we, in the Church, missed something when we have emphasized GOOD-SPEAK, at the expense of Honest-Speak?
So, as I heard God’s gentle prompting, I began the process of looking at the Lament happening in my heart:
Oh my Lord, I lay
my weary body down
The weight of this pain
has crushed my soul
for too many days
Yet my heart
still seeks and looks
for a hand-hold in the cliff
How high must I climb?
How long is the journey?
How wide is the sea?
How deep is the trial?
In your hand is relief
The only tonic
to quench my thirst
In your embrace
will the comfort be found
far from the world’s taunts
My Jesus have mercy
My Savior sweet Lord.
I know I have much to learn in this place of honest lamenting with God. It’s not a matter of learning how to complain–strange how being in a state of denial actually increases the ability to complain long and loud.
No, this is a lesson in exploring the deep crevices of a rocky landscape, and finding God’s Spirit waiting for me there.
“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life which God has promised for all those who love him.” James 1:12
I tend to view my progress through these days, ESPECIALLY because I feel so weak, as so many failed efforts at learning what I am supposed to. But if this Scripture is true, that perseverance itself is a form of obedience, then I need to shift my judgment of myself to a more grace-filled plane.
God is giving me such grace here:
Not only is Jesus NOT offended by my weakness, But He is actually pleased with my plodding and stumbling gait proving His persevering heart of flesh in me through the trial.
And now years later, after I wrote that first Lament to the Lord,
How high must I climb?
How long is the journey?
How wide is the sea?
How deep is the trial?
He has uncovered an even deeper cry in my heart. One that answers His breath in me, His life that has been growing in my physical body, His own body, His true temple.
In each breaking and pain-filled place He is uncovering more of His strength in me. His breath is becoming my very breath, as He is revealing the truth that we are indeed Temples of His Holy Spirit. And in every breaking with the larger Body of Christ, each lamenting has in fact only uncovered His deeper, wider, longer and higher love breathing and beating in me for each and every member of His Body. He is revealing His true transformation in me, as I hear myself now crying:
How high is Your love?
How long is Your love?
How wide is Your love?
How deep is Your love for us?
Do you also long to join Anna and I on this lifelong journey of lament? Do you also long to pour out your heart in all honesty before our LORD and Maker and to listen for His response? Then, we invite you to walk with us through this new part – Part 6 The Breath of God – as we recover the delight of living in the breath of our God.
We long to share with you how our very weakness – through chronic illness – has been leading us into honest and open laments before our Heavenly Father that are awakening the breath of our God and the heart of Jesus in us.
Will you join us as we begin this new part of Arise and Shine in prayer?
Father God, thank You that You are a God who sees our pain and the deep surrenders You are calling us to. Remind us that it is You who yield our hearts to Your will, that all You call us to do is to come, just as we are. Thank You that You have never ever left our side. Thank You that our very surrenders shall become a testament to the depth, width, length and height of Your love at work in us.
Thank You that You stand there with open arms to comfort us, as grief comes calling, and we are reminded of all that we have already released into Your hands. Help us not to bottle up our pain in anger, or numb it away in religious striving, but to entrust our whole heart to You, that You may breathe Your Word of life and hope into us. For we know that faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
Inscribe the truth of Isaiah 51:12-16 on our hearts. Help us not to be afraid of man who dies, the son of man who is made like grass that withers. Help us not to forget You, our LORD, our Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth.
Let us not fear continually all day long because of the wrath of our oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy. Remind us that we who are bowed down shall speedily be released; we shall not die and go down to the pit, neither shall our bread be lacking. For You are the Lord our God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord of hosts is Your name.
You have put Your words in our mouth and covered us in the shadow of Your hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” Yes, from the depths of Your Son’s heart in us, we shall yet praise You from the rising to the setting of the sun. We declare that even at night You shall call forth praise in us through Your Holy Spirit’s breath in us and in our brothers and sisters in Christ You have placed around us.
Thank You that Your messengers of light encamp around those who fear You, LORD. Thank You for surrounding us with Your Body, from near and far, as we bow our knees before You to pour out our lament before You. Open our hearts to receive You and the breath of heaven You are sending out even now to awaken us in Your love.
Break the dams of our unbelief, that Your rivers of justice may roll freely in and through us, and that Your streams of righteousness may refresh us and many more waiting hearts. Make glad Your holy city, oh LORD. Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; for You, our LORD have created it.
Open our mouths wide to declare Your compassion in our weakness and Your kindness and mercy to us in our sin, as we turn toward You, and not away. Wash us as white as snow that others may see the hope and life and joy to which You call each one of us. Breathe mightily in our midst, oh LORD. Let Your glory be revealed in and through us. Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon our garden, let its spices flow. Let our beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits.
Awaken a hunger and thirst in us that cannot be satisfied in this world, that we may come to seek You not just with a part of our heart, but our whole heart, laying bare our sorrow, our longing and our pain before You that You might fill us to overflowing with Your Word and breath of life.
Take each one of us through these days of testing and bring Your truth out into the open. Let nothing remain hidden, as You are our Primary Caregiver. And show us the peace that You have been planting already in us, as we walk into the new with You. Thank You for YOUR change of seasons as we live in Your love for those around us.
Open the words that You pour over us in our lamenting to reach others who are longing to know the depth of Your love also, and to feel Your breath stirring in their own lungs. Show each one of us where You are breathing new life already. And never stop calling us into laments that awaken Your breath and heart in us, until the day You unveil Yourself fully in us.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.