How to Lament 101

Last month I had a breakdown. Physically, Emotionally and Mentally I felt broken and disillusioned with my life. As many who are reading this will know I am currently living in a country in East Asia.

I found myself crying uncontrollably. Weeping with no tears coming out. Screaming inaudibly. Paralysed with fear and crippled with inactivity I felt a strong comfort that I could end this now…

I truly believe God was the only thing that kept me ‘sane’

For a number of reasons, I felt completely disillusioned with being out here. I was utterly consumed with my life and how futile it had become. I live in a building with 39 floors. Next door to my building is 10 others of the same height. Next, to my complex are 100s upon 100s of similar sized manages. To enter Uni, I scan my face (Much like Edna’s famous iris scanner in Incredibles), and then the gate opens.

On a daily basis, I had no peace in my heart that my life was secure. I was convinced, over time, that I wouldn’t return back to the U.K. alive. I had no peace in my mind that others around me were safe either. I excessively checked in on a number of people to make sure they were okay. I excessively noticed every stare and picture. I couldn’t even tell myself that they weren’t looking at me, when the truth was, they were. Being black and male in the country I am currently in makes me stick out like a thumb. I’m above average height and much darker than those around me. 91% of people in the country I am in are of one ethnicity. Ethic minorities here themselves are rare. Black men even rarer.

My consuming thoughts on myself dragged my eyes from what was truly above. Dragged my mind from thinking on things above. Naturally, my behaviour followed suit and I was led into unrepentant prayerlessness, scriptural study and reliance on God. I distracted myself by working hard. I went to Uni from 9-9 but the peace I required couldn’t be found in distraction but only in God. My days could be ruined by a child pointing at me or noticing someone discreetly trying to take a picture of me. With such things being out of my control I felt a strong need to control what I could.

I feel more strongly than ever that Christians need to be a part of a biblically healthy church. If not for my church I say this without caution, I truly believe I could have taken my life. Having men and women who faced much worse forms of persecution take me in and fill me with hope through the word. Disciple me. Care for me. Share my burdens. I was reminded of the need not to ‘pray my situation away.’ Doing so would be returning to the U.K. but instead praying for strength for above to endure all that was going on around me. We do at times in life need to renege on decisions taking. I felt strongly this wasn’t one. Learning how to lament was something that I had never felt a need to do. Learning how to lament was something I needed to learn.

In the bible, there is a whole book dedicated to lamenting (Lamentations). Nearly 70% of the 150 Psalms are ones of lament. Lamenting and crying to the Lord for help in seasons of trouble is not lack of faith but true faith. Faith that regardless of the situations I will not grumble to men, I will not look to sin to fill my feeling of angst (former friends of mine in this area include masturbation, laziness and self-pity, ones I’ve noticed in my friends include overworking themselves to distract from painful experiences, turning to gossip, and disobedience in church attendance, all of which are for JUST reasons, pain is hard thing to navigate), but instead I will turn to the Lord in the ways he has commanded me to.

Through my struggle I learnt to…

Cast my anxieties onto him knowing he cares(1 Peter 5:7).

Not allow excessive anxiousness (Read last blog post on why fear in and of itself is not a bad thing) knowing he will provide all I need in more (Matthew 6).

Trust that regardless of what happens where I am, whether I lose my visa, whether I am questioned, whether I am imprisoned, I can trust that God is a God that never lies. (Numbers 23:19) That I am facing no persecution worse than Jesus did (His suffering was unrighteous mine isn’t) and that in suffering now, and in doing so well I am fulfilling the gospel (Romans 8:17, 1 Peter 4:15-16).

Learning to lament and admit your weakness is hard, but it is truly biblical.

Here are a few places to turn to help you start.

  1. Admit your need to pray and don’t disobey clear biblical instruction to do so.
    As someone who wasn’t raised in a praying household, prayer is not something that comes easy to me. Often, I have only prayed when I felt like it, preferring to study my word. However biblically Christians are directly commanded to pray and to pray often. Christians are commanded to pray through times of suffering. To pray always. As Martyn Lloyd Jones said, “Man is at his greatest and highest when upon his knees he comes face to face with God.” Admit you disobedience and turn to God when anxious and afraid.
  2. Pray through scripture.
    Learning to pray through scripture transformed my prayer life. Instead of my prayers becoming ‘restricted’ as I thought they may be. They became tangible, honest and imaginative. Click here to watch a short video on how and why you should.
  3. Seek others
    For many, this can be hard. But within a healthy biblical church, there will be others, in particular, older men and women who have experienced anxiety in a variety of ways. They may still be struggling with it but in discussing your pain with them you kill the feeling of isolation that often accompanies anxiety. Praying through scripture (in particular the Psalms) shows believer how emotive the Christian life can and should be in particular seasons. This world is truly fallen and broken. Soberness about the realities of life should humble us and turn us to the Lord.
  4. Repeat.
    Results aren’t instant. It is likely I will not shake off the anxiety I feel with being here. But through God, I feel equipped, hopeful, and able to endure this season regardless of what may come. Perseverance is not a beautiful image. Sweat, blood and tears are all things Jesus himself endured. He suffered from hematohidrosis, a medical condition in which anxiety causes sweating blood (Luke 22:44). To receive a peace that surpasses all understanding may require perseverance, petition and endurance in prayer and faithfulness. For others, it may be bestowed instantly. God is sovereign in this area. But in the area of prayer, we bear the responsibility to do so and to do so biblically.

Grace, Peace and Love,

Akwasi

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