This is a look at what Jeff Sickles wrote about lament at Snohomish Evangelical Free Church. This post is about the importance of lament and learning how to do it. Evangelicals differ from Catholics in that many parts of evangelicalism do not allow lament. In light of the pain and suffering I have gone through recently I wanted to feature this post.
“Grief is like the ocean; it comes on waves ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”
“Death is not the end, it is simply walking out of the physical form and into the spirit realm, which is our true home. It’s going back home.”
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
Psalm 13 NIV
Jeff Sickles of Snohomish Evangelical Free Church
A Youtube video logger recalls dealing with his Mom’s death.
This blog was born out of pain and trauma and it often deals with the dark side of religion. Pain and suffering is a topic that many people in the evangelical Christian faith often do not know how to deal with. It can be hard to talk about profound loss in a culture that is more “rah rah Jesus” In my life I have dealt with a lot of suffering..this is some of the highlights.
- I had a close call in the hospital in Fairfax, Virginia dealing with sepsis and a leg infection in 2012. It was disorienting and painful and I was dealing with shock.
- I also had the following incident that triggered this blog. I had an Air Force Captain who tried to get me involved in his Sovereign Grace Church (Redeemer Arlington) who gave birth to a false accusation that took aim at my name, ability to earn income and more. A guy into Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler and more taught me why rape and sexual assault is a problem in the military by abusing his rank. The situation was never resolved and like other Christians the guy involved never came back to fix the situation or contact me and say “Dave I’m sorry…” Just like Mark Driscoll he fled, and like many Christians he didn’t say he was sorry, but claimed he had “sound doctrine” and a “healthy church.” I wrote about the situation in “How I Managed a False Accusation Given Birth to by a USAF Captain and Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington for 408 Days.”
- I had my grandmother’s death in October 2009. I still remember my final conversation with my grandmother. I never knew when I said goodbye to her that it would be forever.
- Without getting into the details I have watched a couple of loved ones deal with illness.
- Then I also had the death of my Mom on April 1, 2017. I watched my Mom deal with her illness. I saw suffering change her to the point she could not recognize me at times. I was bitten, and had eyebrows pulled out all while I tried to feed my Mom. I have written a number of posts but this one details what I learned from my Mom’s illness and death. “What I Learned About Life From My Mom’s Illness and Death.” I am still mourning my Mom’s death and wrote her another letter the other day.
- Then we had the close call with my Dad and his fall and his time in the hospital. I remember when the fall and the rush to the Emergency Room had happened. The first thought I had in the morning when I saw all the phone calls that came through in the middle of the night was “Oh..shit!” Especially after what I went through with my Mom. What has been encouraging however, is having positive news for a change. My Dad is actually on the mend.
What is key during times of loss and pain is that of mourning and lament. I think lament is a natural human reaction. What I had my faith crisis and pushed away from Christianity I lamented the death of my faith. The fact that something died that I didn’t want to die. I think the one group who does lament exceptionally well is the Roman Catholic faith. There you are allowed to grieve and mourn and the faith allows and encourages it. The Roman Catholic faith does a phenomenal job with grace and sometimes I think they understand grace better than the Protestants at times. But lament is something that needs to take place in time and life will force it. You can try and fight it but it will come back later on, and you will grieve one way or another.
If I could change one area of evangelical Christian faith it would be this…I wish evangelicals embrace mourning and lament. Where a person could go a long period of time and mourn a deep loss. Where they could lament and ask “why?” or “how long?” The evangelical faith could be far better if people were allowed to mourn. After all we are all going to deal with death, loss, tragedy, illness, and more.
Its with that in mind that I want to get into the bulk part of this post. Its written by an Evangelical Free Pastor from Snohomish Evangelical Free Church in Snohomish, Washington. This is a reformed church in the Pacific Northwest District of the EFCA. Snohomish is a small town in the western part of the state. In researching I have not been able to find too much information on Jeff Sickles. I know he is on the EFCA Pacific Northwest District Board as the North Seattle Regional Overseer. But in regards to his history I do not know where he is from or where he went to school. In reading his blog it sounds like he has been leading Snohomish for over 20 years now. So with that I will turn this post over to Jeff Sickles. He has some interesting words to say. I have read Jeff’s blog and there is much more material to use for discussions which I will do gradually in the course of time. I look forward to writing about Snohomish Evangelical Free.
I don’t process loss as well as I could. In this I am a victim of my culture (well, not a victim really so much as a willing participant). I didn’t grow up with a narrative that embraced pain, suffering and loss. Instead I was part of a generation that was fed a steady diet of “you can be whatever you set your heart on” and “work hard enough and things will only get better.” These messages came through movies, TV and books. Sometimes these messages came from the advice of well-meaning people.
A theological conundrum: How come that is not my experience? Am I somehow doing everything wrong? I tend to forget two very important things when I’m asking these questions. One, there is a lot of things that go wrong before the happy ending. And two, I haven’t reached the end yet.
In the midst of life, in a world that cannot – I repeat cannot – be perfect because of our sin, there is pain and suffering and loss. Some of it we bring on ourselves, some of it we don’t (and some is a little bit of both), but it is there nonetheless. Other times and other cultures have embraced this reality more profoundly than I have, and I need to learn from them.
One of the most significant lessons I need to continue to grow in is the ability to lament. A lament is an expression of grief over pain or loss. Expressing pain in a real and constructive way is challenging. It involves more than just rehearsing the details of the event or how I am truly feeling. But it requires both of these. I have turned to the Psalms over and over again to find words to help me express what I am feeling in response to the painful and challenging situations that I have experienced. The words of the psalmists have helped me to find a language of lament. But the Psalms have also pushed me to be constructive by reminding me that I am not alone in pain – God is there; He hears me and walks with me.
One other important part of a lament (at least a biblical one) is the undeniable quality of hope and faith that emerges through the process of expressing grief, confusion and even anger. As the psalmist shares with God, the psalmist is also reminded of who God is. I need to be reminded of who God is! This is especially true when He is not matching my expectations of His behavior (who am I, oh man, to place expectations on God!). The psalmists teach me that it is not only alright to express my deep feelings, but important. They also teach me to keep turning to what I know of God and to connect with God in the process. When I do, my laments become a thing of beauty (though nothing like the brilliance of the Psalms).
Pursue Christ – He is enough,