What does the Bible say about Grief, Trauma and Lament?
When our lives are touched with trauma How can we filter through the hurt and pain that has suddenly flooded into our lives? How can we have peace when we feel nothing but grief, pain or anger? The great news is, we don’t have to ignore the difficult times in life. It’s possible to still have a cheerful heart yet feel pain and anguish. A cheerful heart doesn't always pretend that everything is well and perfect. A cheerful heart makes time to grieve at the appropriate times (Eccl 7:2). A cheerful heart responds appropriately to a given situation. Looking at our pain through the eyes of the Holy Spirit can bring restoration. We can have a peace that can only come from the Healer of our hearts.
Have you ever felt deep anguish from a great loss of health, a loss of of a loved one or maybe even the disability of your own child? I have been there, recently in fact. The devastation and loss from chronic illness came roaring into our lives and has caused much damage. I’ve found that It’s okay and completely normal for us to feel anguish when trauma comes. In Ephesians 4:26, GOD actually commands us to be angry but HE also commands us not to sin in doing so. There’s this stigma that Christians can never feel anger or sadness. We feel that we need to tuck our anger and sorrows deep inside so no one can see. We make our cup on the outside look polished and shiny. You know, like we have it all together. We think if we show our anguish or sorrow that people might think less of us. So we tuck it deeper and deeper and continue with a smile on our face.
There have been many times in my life, that I felt entitled to be disappointed. When life didn’t seem fair I would bottle it up inside where no one else could see. I pridefully held it in as if I had no problem. But eventually, the disappointment grew and became like poison. My eyes were blinded to the true condition of my heart.
You see the enemy wants nothing more than to place a root of bitterness in our hearts that it might grow and choke out every piece of joy and love that resides there. He doesn’t want us to give it to God. He wants to deceive us into believing that we can deal with it ourselves. He wants us to tuck it deep inside our hearts, never to be seen or exposed. He wants to harden our hearts.
God’s desire is for us to be so interconnected with Him that we can lay our hearts bare and transparent before Him. The Holy Spirit wants to comfort, teach and lead us through the pain. We can cry out to God and tell him how hurtful and how great the loss or affliction has affected our lives. He is ready to take it for us, but we have to be willing to hand it over. We have to be willing to admit that we are experiencing these emotions and we need help.
When trauma and unexpected circumstances hit my family, I found that GOD didn't expect me to carry on pretending I was fine. Our Heavenly Father is the strong one. He was waiting for me to bring my burdens and lay them at His feet. He wanted me to draw my joy and strength from Him, when I had none to muster up for myself (Nehemiah 8:10) (Psalm 28:7). He then took me through a life changing time of lament. (Lament means to feel deep sorrow or express it as by weeping or wailing, mourning or grieving.)
While studying the book of Job and Psalms, I found the heart cry of many of God’s people. They cried out to God in the form of laments in the midst of their suffering. These mighty men of God took their grief, sorrows, complaints and praise to the only one who could help them in their human frailty.
Here are some laments from two godly men of the Bible, King David and Job:
Psalm 6:2-3 King David laments and expresses his anguish from sickness. He says, “Have mercy on me, LORD, for I am faint; heal me, LORD, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, LORD, how long?”
Job 30:27-28 says, “My heart is in turmoil and cannot rest; Days of affliction confront me. I go about mourning, but not in the sun; I stand up in the assembly and cry out for help.”
Job 30:16-17 Job says, “And now my life ebbs away; days of suffering grip me. Night pierces my bones; my gnawing pains never rest.”
Job 3:11 Job says, "Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?
These men have chapter after chapter of laments like these. I wonder if they felt shame for feeling this way? I wonder if people told them to pull out of their depression and self pity? I wonder if they tried to hide it to appear strong? Either way it seems that these men had a normal human response to intense suffering. These men ran out of their own self sufficiency and turned to their Father for help. What a beautiful thing. God says they didn’t sin in doing so. Lamenting to God in prayer was the cure for their intense pain and suffering.
We have, often times, gotten away from biblical lament and suffering is not usually a subject that we like to talk about. We feel shame when we experience these emotions. We fear judgement from others. We think if we feel this way during intense suffering that it is somehow being unfaithful to God, but it’s actually quite the opposite. Lament is not a failure of faith, but it's an act of faith. We are taking our suffering, pain and sorrow to the only one who can help us. Psalm 46 says God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Scripture also tells us not to let the cares of this world weigh us down. If we don’t learn how to lament and release our cares to God we will always carry burdens that were never meant for us to carry.
Here are a few scriptures to remind us to lay our burdens down:
1 Peter 5:7 (NKJV) casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Matthew 11:28-29 (NKJV) Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Psalm 55:22 (NKJV) Cast your burden on the Lord, And He shall sustain you;
The Holy Spirit and God’s Words has been teaching me how to lament and how to praise during hard seasons of my life. It’s ok to empty myself of anger and sorrow. It’s okay to lament when I need to and cast my burden at the Lord’s feet. It’s not weak, it’s biblical and it’s healthy. God wants to fill us with His supernatural peace and joy. We can’t do it in ourselves. It’s all HIM. Jesus came and experienced the life of a human. What a wonderful comfort it is to know that we have a God who can relate to all of our earthly pain and sorrows.
The Bible says that Jesus was a man of sorrows:
Isaiah 53:3-5 (ESV) He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces HE was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely HE has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed HIM stricken, smitten by GOD, and afflicted. But HE was pierced for our transgressions; HE was crushed for our iniquities; upon HIM was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with HIS wounds we are healed.
This JESUS, who we love, is well acquainted with sorrow and grief. HE was despised and rejected by men. HE was willing to take on all of our sin and die to bring us peace and life. HE wants to make our burden light and bring healing to our hearts.
In John 11:35 JESUS wept for Lazarus even though he knew he was going to raise him from the dead in the next few minutes. When Mary and Martha came to JESUS crying, HE could have laughed and said "Wow silly girls, why are you crying, I'm in control", but HE didn't. I believe HE could empathize with their pain and scripture says that JESUS wept. HE had compassion for Mary and Martha and the human grief that they were experiencing. JESUS has felt all the feelings that we have, HE understands and has compassion towards us. HE wants to give us peace that surpasses all understanding even in the midst of extreme difficulty (Phil 4:7) It glorifies HIM because there is no possible way that we should have peace and joy in certain circumstances. Going through the trial with peace and joy doesn't show how tough and strong we are but how amazingly strong and faithful our GOD is. Because of HIM, we have hope.
I’m learning to feel the hurt and then let it go. Wounds don’t heal immediately, it takes time. Our Father is patient and full of grace. He blesses us with the Holy Spirit and the time needed for our hearts to properly heal. Men and women of GOD all throughout the bible endured tough circumstances. A lot of the time, healing didn't come immediately and years passed before the WORD of the LORD came to deliver and restore. I don't ever want to become so disappointed that I give up on HIS promises. LORD, help me to always remember that the wilderness and the waiting are opportunities for me to learn and grow in faith and reliance on you. This is where we find peace and joy in the midst of our disappointments. Only in and through YOU. Even in the midst of grief and suffering, I pray that we would still run hard after our relationship with you. Because we want you, not just your blessings.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version 1982 by Thomas Nelson and English Standard Version
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