Trust and Worship.
God has created us and re-created us in Christ to bring glory to Him in all we do. We are designed and redeemed to be people of praise, living our lives by faith. Trusting and worshipping the God who is there, is sovereign, and good. The TRUTH is that He is loving, gracious, merciful, and kind. Often, we can affirm those truths cognitively and experientially. There are times, however, when, to be HONEST, that is not the case. Times when we wonder if God is there, let alone good, and in control. Those are the times we need the language of Lament to get us from the pit to praise, from complaint to confidence, from doubt and disappointment to trust and worship.
Trust & Worship is the goal of Lament. In the Lament Psalms, the starting point is pain, but the destination is trust & worship. By way of example: Psalm 13 goes from “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? (v1&2) to “but I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD because he has dealt bountifully with me” (v5&6). Psalm 28 starts with “LORD, I call to you; my rock, do not be deaf to me. If you remain silent to me, I will be like those going down to the Pit” and ends with, “the LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. Therefore, my heart celebrates, and I give thanks to him with my song”. The same flow runs through the book of Job. His justifiable complaints & questions – end in humble worship.
Although less obvious, the same pattern exists in Lamentations. Lamentations 5:21 is a statement of trust “LORD, bring us back to yourself, so we may return; renew our days as in former time”. As we seek that pattern in Lamentations, we learn four things about trust and worship as the goal of Lament.
Trust requires counselling.
When we go through times of suffering, grief, tragedy, and pain, what we need is counsel, the counselling of the word of God. We may not always require a counsellor, but we always need the counsel of God’s word. That is what’s going on in Lamentations.
I think it safe to say just two voices are speaking in the book of Lamentations. Firstly, Jeremiah in Chapters 1-4, and then the residents of Jerusalem in Chapter 5. A people who had lost everything, families, friends, and homes. Before chapter 5, they have no words to articulate their feelings and experiences. They are like Job sitting silently amongst the ashes.
Jeremiah as a skilled counsellor “sits” with these lonely people (1:1). In chapters 1&2 he identifies with them and speaks on behalf of the city, expressing what they cannot.
In chapter 3 he speaks to the people. Speaking as a counsellor. With New Testament knowledge, we know he is speaking on behalf of THE counsellor, the “wonderful counsellor” (Isa 9:6). The one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath (3:1). The one who knows what it is to be in deepest darkness (3:2), and forsaken (3:8). He knows them, and he knows us.
In chapters 1,2 and 4 he says, “I know you”. In chapter 3 he says, “I want you to know me”.
In all of this, the counsellor is bringing them to the place where they can pray, chapter 5.
The wonderful counsellor identifies with us, speaks for us as our advocate, speaks to us through his word in the power of his Spirit. Most times he will use means (biblical counsellors), but HE is THE counsellor. By the way, beware of counsellors who do not speak “The Word” (the scriptures) of THE WONDERFUL counsellor.
Trust is a choice.
A choice to believe and to do. Imagine you are a Pilot about to land. You contact the Air Traffic Controller who tells which runway is clear for landing, gives you instructions to adjust your speed, your altitude, and your course. You know and understand what has been told you, now you have two choices to make. One is to believe what you have been told and the second is to do what you have been told. To do so is trust.
Likewise, we must choose to trust our counsellor (His Word). We must know and understand from His word what is true. We must choose to believe it, even when our situations and struggles cause us to doubt. And we must do it. That’s trust, that’s faith. The faith equation is: FAITH = KNOWING + BELIEVING + DOING/OBEYING.
Lamentations 3:21-25: But this I call to mind (knowing), and therefore I have hope (believing): The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (knowing). “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul (believing), “therefore I will hope in him (doing/trusting).” The LORD is good to those who wait for him (knowing and believing), to the soul who seeks him (trusting/doing).”
Trust is a choice you must make, but sadly this is where so many go astray. They think they are the exception. “Yes, I know that’s what God’s word says, BUT in my case … ” Yes, I Know God’s word says I can trust Him for … BUT in this situation, … “.
Trust is a choice. Make it! If God’s word says it, do it, and trust him with the outcomes.
That is why all Laments have their “yet” moments “Though he slays me, yet will I trust in him”.
Trust issues in worship.
Lament is the bridge between the pole of TRUTH on the one hand and the pole of HONESTY on the other. The TRUTH of who God is, and the HONESTY of our messed-up situations. “KNOWING” resides at the pole of “TRUTH” where it is easy to praise & worship God with the head. Transporting that same praise and worship to the pole of “HONESTY” is the challenge, and that requires believing and trusting. Lament is the vehicle for belief and trust. Notice the flow of Psalm 13:5&6. The trusting of verse 5 issues in the singing (worship) of verse 6. Psalm 28:7 The LORD is my strength and my shield (knowing); my heart trusts in him, and I am helped (believing and trusting). Therefore, my heart celebrates, and I give thanks to him with my song (worship).
Interestingly, the Laments are often songs. Lament tunes our hearts to sing. The problem is that pole 1 is in our heads (knowledge), and pole 2 is often in our hearts (our affections where we have our emotional crises). Singing moves the “knowledge” from the head to the heart! Laments address our affections. That’s why we should sing carefully selected hymns or songs after a sermon. Singing brings the HOPE in our heads, into our hearts. It brings us back to worship, where we belong.
Worship is not an unassailable rock.
The danger is that we begin to think of worship as a final destination. On Christ the solid rock I stand. Period. In one sense it is, but it is not a ONCE OFF arrival point. Not that there is anything wrong with the rock, the problem is with the waves that keep beating against the rock and with our foothold on it.
Notice Lamentations 5:19-22. In verses 19 and 21 they have come to a place of faith, but in verses 20 and 22 the element of doubt remains.
Unfortunately, some “counsellors” have a mechanical and linear view. Move from turning to God, to crying and complaining to God, to asking God, and finally to trusting in God and that’s it, job done.
Life doesn’t work like that. The Bible is not written like that. Paul goes from the high of Romans 5 to the low of Romans 7 and back to the high of Romans 8. Does that mean there is no final hope? No. The answer to Lamentations 5:22 is found in the gospels, the story from Bethlehem to Calvary to the empty tomb, and so on. Lament is a journey we must keep on making, keep on returning to, and keep on repeating. It’s a journey we can only make in the power of the one who has caused us to be born again. Only Christians can Lament. We can only do it through the one who indwells us, with whom we are sealed, the Holy Spirit.
As John Piper said in an email to Mark Vroegop, “Keep trusting the one who keeps you trusting”.