Have you ever drifted out to sea on a flotation device? It normally starts with you thinking that you are close enough to the shore to relax without worrying about where you are. Then, after you close your eyes for a little bit, you open them to quickly realize that you are really far away. Yikes! At that point, you may perform one of these options:
Stay put and see where the current takes you.
Freak out and try to swim back and then realize that you don’t have the strength to make it back to the shore. At that point, exhaustion and apathy may set in.
Shout for help.
What is a simple way to avoid this extreme drifting? Floating with some type of “anchor.”
If you have anchors for when the currents come, you don’t have to worry because you are “anchored” down and nothing will move you from too far away from the shore.
Sometimes when the wind currents of life come hard, we don’t know how to express our questions, pain and struggles to God. Is it good or safe to tell God how we really feel? Many times we can become so exhausted with our questions or pain that we can feel like giving up or we decide to just “see where the current takes us” instead of seeking the Lord.
We must resist the urge to merely gaze at our current circumstance and should look at the God of the the Psalms in the Old Testament. We must see how the authors dealt with their intense pain and questions. The Psalms can teach us a lot about how to anchor ourselves in the midst of the storms of our life.
In the Psalms we see people lamenting (crying out) to God like this:
“O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days…but you have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies (9)…all day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face (15)….yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. Awake! Why are you sleeping O Lord? Rouse Yourself! Do not reject us forever! Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground. Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love” --Psalms 44: 1, 9,15, 22-26, ESV
This type of psalm has been called one of the “psalms of lament” by Biblical scholars. In these types of psalms we see payers that lay out a troubling situation before the Lord and a request for His help. We also see intense emotions, struggles, and pain experienced by the Israelites in this Psalm above. However, the psalms of lament follow a pattern that begins with suffering and ends with a renewed trust in God. Usually, they start off with a negative, complaining note, but they end on a positive, faith-filled reflection God’s faithful and good character to fulfill his Word.
Praise God that the Psalms of lament are in our Bible! Its inclusion invites us to come to God and be honest with him and then seek Him again and again for who He is: a faithful God.
Likewise, can must use the Psalms of lament as a model for how we, as believers, should encourage other believers to explore their questions, doubts, and honest pursuit of God.
However, if we start encouraging lamenting before God, where is the line between honest expression and an arrogant and accusatory tone before God?
First, let’s compare the two basic types of lamenting in prayer/worship before God:
Unbiblical Lament: “I am in pain…how dare you, God? who do you think that you are? I don’t think that you are good in all ways.” Most unbelievers object to the existence of God in this fashion. Their primary objection is that God is not good, just, and satisfying to follow. This can be prideful as it can stand in judgment over God (see the book Job). Believers in Christ, however, should avoid lamenting in this fashion as well.
Biblical lament: “I am in pain…where are you God? Why is this happening? I’m struggling to see your good plan in all of this. Yet, your word says that you are working all things together for my good and your Glory.” This approach seeks to humbly submit to truths about who God has shown Himself to be. (see Romans 8:38)
When we allow our believing friends or children to be vulnerable about where they are at in their walk with God, we can listen and love them; however, I do not mean that we are to be welcoming and accepting of behavior or lines of thinking that is sinful.
Thus, if we are going to work towards cultivating an environment that encourages spiritual growth, we need to have discernment between what is a healthy vs. what is a destructive (or deconstructive) attitude when it comes to growing in our walk with God.
We can listen to ideas and hear them out, but it does not mean that we must affirm or promote every viewpoint as equally valid. This is especially true with viewpoints that are contrary to Biblical teaching.
Consequently, If God is an infinite being and since we are finite, we must welcome reflection about how, in His infinite wisdom, He has chosen to allow/ordain something (i.e. suffering or a bad circumstance) to happen. Yet, we must be careful to not try and re-fashion who God really is into something we are more comfortable with.
We must encourage humility that stands under the revealed truth of who God has said that He is, instead of pride that says we can stand over God and tell him how He is allowed to behave.
If we don’t anchor ourselves around things that we CAN know about God, while we are struggling/lamenting before God, we can easily drift far away from any comforting answers.
We should prepare ourselves to be anchored before hard times come. It's not a matter of "if" but when they will come.
So, when they come, we will stay grounded and focused on specific “Anchors of truth” about who God is. These anchors are things that are consistent with reality and the Bible. To deny these would be to deny reality and scripture itself.
Focusing on these anchors will always re-center us when we are unsure of how to make sense of all of our questions.
The 4 main anchors are these:
God exists and His Word is true.
God is Sovereign and always keeps His promises.
God is good.
Sin is always destructive.
We will focus on each of these 4 anchors in more depth in part 2 of our “Anchors” series. Click on the link below to see the next part in the "Anchor" series.
To read part 2, click here.