What to do When you Can’t Find Hope through the Fog

“You have wrapped yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through” (Lamentations 3:44)

Maybe ancient Jews were more honest than 21 century Christians. I don’t remember every hearing a prayer like this one spoken aloud. I have no doubt that anyone who has lived long has wished they were honest enough and bold enough to rage against the fog. The ancient author of this prayer sits in silence then he pours out his heart to God. Sheer anguish pours out. He doesn’t try to tell God what to do. He just tells God how it is. He’s not sure anyone is listening.

He persistently keeps praying even though he feels like no one is listening.

 

Time passes, there is not telling how much, but later he feels different. “I called on your name, O LORD, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, ‘do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!'” (Lamentations 3:55-57)

Eventually, if we keep seeking him, God comes near.

One way I know it is God speaking to me is that the first thing he says is, “do not fear”. What a strange command. Do I have any choice about whether I fear or not?

Apparently I do.

Fear is an insidious enemy. I don’t always feel like I have a choice about fear. But I do have a choice, otherwise why would God start every meeting with a human by telling them not to be afraid?

Fear is a strange thing. It seems like an acknowledgement of weakness, but it is really a form of pride.

 

Fear counts God out and looks for tangible and easily controllable solutions instead. Trust seems weak, but it is actually a form of strength because it rests in God’s strength and goodness.

Trust runs in the company of an illusive friend, hope.

The right kind of hope is almost a superpower I think. With hope I have the grit to persist. Without it I curl up in a ball and feel sorry for myself. Dashed hopes hurt but his kind of hope doesn’t lead there.

 

While we wrestle with anger and despair, fool’s-gold-hope is stolen from us. The false hope that God is going to follow our detailed directions for the careful repair of our life disappears. Some people quit praying at that point. They sink into a quicksand of self-righteous bitterness. They may keep living but anyone can see that they have been dead for ages. A few persistent people keep asking, seeking, and knocking, even though they are confused. They may knock for a very long time, but those who keep on praying even though they can’t sense anyone listening, are eventually rewarded by God’s presence. He comes near. This is hard to describe. Different people experience God’s nearness in different ways. But, they know it is real. When God is near they choose hope over fear. This, finally is the eye of the hurricane. This kind of hope is an inner peace and rest even though the hurricane may continue to rage on all sides.

The art of lamenting does not have step by step instructions. Anger, truth, silence, humility, confession, persistence, dependence, and hope are paints on a palette, used at different times. Sometimes they are mixed together and look quite different when applied. We find ourselves laying on generous amounts of dark angry tones, then we add highlights of truth, moving back and forth between them until finally there is more dependence and hope and less anger. One day we wake up to find despair has vanished completely.

Lamenting often begins with honest anger. Sometimes that anger is directed at God. It continues with remembering what we know to be true, even though we aren’t experiencing it. To read more about these ideas The Eye of the Hurricane part 1.

Blunt emotional honesty and deliberately remembering truth should be accompanied by waiting in silence. To read more about silence see The Eye of the Hurricane part 2.

Silence leads to humility and humility leads to confession and freedom from guilt. See the Eye of the Hurricane part 3.

This is the last in a series of my meditations about the art of lamenting based on Lamentations 3.

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