When pain almost strangles us and darkness is our closest friend, what should we do?
For years, I thought the best response was cheerful acceptance. Since God uses everything for our good and his glory, I felt the most God-honoring attitude was to appear joyful all the time.
But I have since learned the beauty of lamenting in my suffering. Lament highlights the gospel more than stoicism ever could. Hearing our authentic lament can draw others to God in unexpected ways. I first noticed the power of lament in the book of Ruth.
I had long seen Ruth as the undisputed hero of the book that bears her name, and Naomi as the grumbling character with weak faith and a negative attitude. But having walked in similar shoes for a fraction of her journey, I have a new respect for the depth of Naomi’s trust in God. Ruth was an eyewitness to Naomi’s faith. She saw that faith hold fast, even in horrific circumstances. And behind it she saw the God who heard Naomi’s lament and didn’t condemn her for it, even as Naomi spoke frankly about her disappointment with God.
Naomi is achingly honest. When she goes back to her hometown, she doesn’t pretend everything is fine. She invites others to peer into the dark corners of her bitterness and frustration. She asserts that God has dealt bitterly with her and has brought calamity upon her. She admits she is empty.
Godly lament does not repel people form the gospel but rather draws them to the Lord. Naomi’s pain and bitterness could have pushed Ruth away from God, as Ruth saw Naomi struggle with God’s goodness. But instead, Ruth saw that Naomi’s hope—even through catastrophic loss—was in a sovereign God who was loving enough to hear and respond to her lament.
Vaneetha Rendall Risner is the author of The Scars That Have Shaped Me and is a regular contributor to DesiringGod.org. Excerpted from The Scars That Have Shaped Me, © Vaneetha Rendall Risner 2016, used by permission.
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