Everywhere I look, it seems, there are a ton of quotes and articles on how to be grateful and why it’s important to be grateful.
Train your mind to see the good in everything.
The struggle ends when gratitude begins.
101 Ways To Practice Gratitude.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
Five Ways To Nourish Your Soul Through Gratitude.
It’s not the happy who are grateful, it’s the grateful who are happy.
Gratitude, “they say”, changes everything. And I’m inclined to agree … to a degree.
I certainly appreciate that gratitude is a wonderful daily discipline. In fact, I just started my own 365-day personal gratitude challenge because it’s important to be intentional about looking for all the ways God shows up in our day-to-day lives. But I also can’t help but think about lament … about how many stories in the Bible involve defeat and hardship … and about how many scriptures call us to trust God and lean on Him rather than ourselves.
The Bible is made up of 1/3 lament and yet, do we even know what that word means?
Lament: to display a passionate expression of grief or sorrow … to wail … to moan … to weep … to cry … and to sob.
I don’t know about you, but I experience many moments of “big ol’ bawling mess” where the quote, “The struggle ends when gratitude begins,” doesn’t apply in the least and it certainly doesn’t provide any comfort.
So what do we do with our Kleenex moments of lament in this trendy culture of gratitude?
Habakkuk’s “vent session” in chapter one (which is refreshing to read) resonates with anyone who has ever cried out to God in frustrated prayer. Habakkuk was asking God, “how long” and “why” regarding his circumstances, but he was not denying the existence of pain.
“God, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? How many times do I have to yell, “Help! Murder! Police!” before you come to the rescue? Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day? Anarchy and violence break out, quarrels and fights all over the place. Law and order fall to pieces. Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and stand justice on its head.” —Habakkuk 1:2-4 (MSG)
I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure this honest prayer of pain doesn’t represent a guy who’s worried about mastering all the quotes about gratitude. Rather, he’s speaking honestly with God. And it was through Habakkuk’s prayer of lament that God changed his heart. He didn’t immediately change his situation, but God directed Habakkuk’s attention away from his present circumstances and onto His future plans. All Habakkuk had to do was wait, trust God and live by faith.
“Though the cherry trees don’t blossom and the strawberries don’t ripen, though the apples are worm-eaten and the wheat fields stunted, though the sheep pens are sheepless and the cattle barns empty, I’m singing joyful praise to God. I’m turning cartwheels of joy to my Savior God. Counting on God’s Rule to prevail, I take heart and gain strength. I run like a deer. I feel like I’m king of the mountain!” —Habakkuk 3:17-19 (MSG)
I can’t help but think that if 1/3 of the Bible is about lament, and God shows us beautifully – through the life of Habakkuk — what can happen through our lament, then God must have intended for us to understand that lament is a very real and necessary process for our lives as Christians, too.
And if that’s true, then we don’t always need to be in a rush to “have a great attitude,” or “think positively,” or “train our minds to see the good in everything,” right?
So the next time you find yourself broken-hearted and sobbing in discouragement and depletion, instead of telling yourself to “suck it up”, or “toughen up”, or “put on your big girl pants” (or guy pants if you’re a guy reading this, ha!), why not choose to see the moment as an opportunity to be grateful for lament?
The world wants us to push hard feelings aside, but we’re reminded through the story of Habakkuk that hard feelings help us dig deeper into our faith.
The world encourages us to hurry through the uncertain times and the uncomfortable seasons because we’re here to have a good time and to immerse ourselves in all that is comfy, cozy and happy. But we’re encouraged through Habakkuk’s prayer of lament that peace CAN be found in our circumstances of difficulty because scripture reminds us that lamenting our sorrow is just as much an act of worship as clapping our hands for joy.
The world wants us to stuff our seasons of failure and defeat and see them as moments to rise above, but Habakkuk shows us that it’s okay to mourn and grieve our sorrow, as well.
Lamenting reminds us of how much we need God’s intervention … how much we can’t do life on our own … and how important it is to rely on HIS strength rather than our own. Therefore we can be grateful for lament, for the hard emotions, for the uncomfortable feelings, for the discouraging season, and for the days of suffering, because without these moments, would we really need God as desperately?
So yes, gratitude is great. But moments of lament are okay, too.