The Key to Making Lament a Part of Healthy Spirituality

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There that moment (or moments) during any retreat, camp, or mission trip when a student "gets it". In our Wesleyan heritage we might think of it as an "Aldersgate Moment"; that moment when we feel so close to God that all of it begins to make a little more sense.

“For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Psalm 73: 3

“All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence.” Psalm 73:13

“But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.” Psalm 73: 16-17

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73: 26

“Mark’s piece of cake is bigger than mine!”

“Why don’t you let me go to the mall, Mom? Jenna’s mom lets her go all of the time!”

“It’s not fair!”

Perhaps your children have made similar statements. All the while, you know that the issue at hand is not as large as they perceive it to be, and perhaps, it is only a matter of time before privilege is granted or permissions are given. But to your children, the idea of not having what they want when they want it is agonizing— particularly when Susie Next Door is getting it.

As adults, we make these kinds of comparisons, too. Our situations can cause us to disrupt our own peace.

“Why does he get the raise? Doesn’t the boss see how hard I’ve been working?”

“I don’t understand how Sarah and Dan got that new house; they’re not even Christians! God, when am I going to get my break?” “It’s not fair!!”

How easy it is for us to cry “Foul!” at perceived injustices, particularly when we perceive we aren’t getting what we rightfully deserve or if someone else is walking away with a bigger slice of the pie. We look at those around us with fleshly eyes of comparison, and when we don’t see what we want to, it’s easy to fall prey to a spirit of discontentment.

The Psalmist was no exception; he looked around and saw the wicked prospering. He even told God: “They are not in trouble as others are; they are not stricken like the rest of mankind” (73:5). His enemies appeared to be untouchable, prospering, wealthy—and getting wealthier. Talk about frustration; where was the favor of God? The Psalmist despaired to the point of believing his own pursuit to stay clean before God wasn’t paying off. For the first part of this chapter, he is clearly miserable, wallowing in discontentment.

Discontentment is a restless, ugly beast. Leave it to sulk long enough, and it will invite its brothers Envy, Resentment, and Despair to rent space in your heart, too. We’ve all known people who seem to have allowed Satan to have the upper hand of Misery in their lives, instead of being filled with the joy of salvation God prepared for them. Sometimes we wonder how they got to that place; it all started with discontentment, which allowed other emotions to crowd out the joy intended for them.

So how did the writer not allow his heart to be overtaken by these emotions? It was clear he had to experience a shift in perspective. There was only one place that could get him out of his misery: the presence of God.

Verse 17 records how he went into the sanctuary of God—the place of fellowship, of tabernacle with the Most High. It was as he communed with the Lord that
he was granted a higher perspective, a different vantage point—a heavenly one. His priorities and pursuits shifted under the weight of the presence of God; they had no choice.

It was only during time with the Lord that he gained wisdom and insight, that he realized Whose he was to be far more important that Who Had What. On his own, it was “a wearisome task” (verse 16) to deal with  his own discontentment, but with the help of the Lord, he realized that the unfailing love and guidance of the Lord, the strength of his heart (verse 26), had far more eternal value than anything in his temporary vision.

God’s presence is the antidote to discontentment. In spending time with Him, we allow His heart to speak to ours, reminding us of his great and precious promises for us as His children. Our priorities become aligned with His; our vision becomes much wider than the present and stretches must farther than our temporary circumstances. We are reminded that we are His and He is ours—and that is more than enough and more than we deserve. Our eternal promise to be with Him has been secured, and He is with us even now, leading, guiding, and directing us. It doesn’t matter who has what—we remember Who has us.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for being everything I need. Keep my eyes focused on You. As I walk with You daily and meditate on Your word, fill me to overflowing with Your joy. Amen.

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Amy L. George is a writing instructor at Southwestern Assemblies of God University. She is the author of The Fragrance of Memory (Amsterdam Press, 2010), Sacred Fires and Ebullient Flames (Red Ochre Press, May 2011), and Desideratum (Finishing Line Press, 2013).

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