My husband and I celebrated 13 years of marriage this year, and one thing I’m learning is that we can’t go any further than the level of honesty we have with one another.
I believe the same is true in our relationship with God. As we become more honest with God, it allows the relationship to grow and develop.
If you want to grow in your relationship with God, you’ve got to get honest.
Sometimes we think it’s improper to tell God our honest thoughts and feelings. We’re afraid He’ll strike us down if we do.
We get so caught up in the formalities that we forget to be real. When we pray, we’re so preoccupied with whether or not our “thees” and “thous” are in the right place that we withhold parts of ourselves from God. If only we would realize that what He’s really after is our whole heart in its realest and rawest form.
Be Brutally Honest
The writers of the Psalms knew the value of honesty in their relationship with God. They said things like, “I am so troubled that I cannot speak” and, “O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” (Psalm 22:2, 77:4)
The psalmists even questioned God! They pondered things like:
“Has his steadfast love forever ceased?”
“Are his promises at an end for all time?”
“Has God forgotten to be gracious?” (1)
Then, there’s the ultimate question, the one our Savior cried on an old rugged cross, foreshadowed in Psalm 22:1: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
D.A. Carson puts it this way:
There is no attempt in Scripture to whitewash the anguish of God’s people when they undergo suffering. They argue with God, they complain to God, they weep before God. Theirs is not a faith that leads to dry-eyed stoicism, but a faith so robust it wrestles with God. (2)
Have you ever wrestled with God? Have you ever brought Him your most unsettling objections and your deepest anguish and insisted upon an answer?
Many of us stay stuck and stall out spiritually because we don’t articulate our internal battles to God. So they just sit there, creep underneath the surface and fester.
Learn to Lament
I want to give you a word to define the concept of honesty with God. I truly believe that if you will imprint this word on the fabric your heart it will transform your Christian experience.
The word is lament. In her book No More Faking Fine, Esther Fleece explains what this idea is all about. She says:
Lament is not a common word in our churches today, though it is a language woven throughout Scripture. A lament is a passionate expression of our pain that God meets us in. It’s real talk with God about the ways we are hurting. It’s an honest prayer to God about where we are, not where we are pretending to be.
Lament … is simply expressing honest emotions to God when life is not going as planned. Whether we’re hurt, frustrated, confused, betrayed, overwhelmed, sad, or disappointed, lament is the language God has given us to talk to Him right in the middle of life’s messes. It’s a prayer that says, God, I’m hurting – will You meet me here? And as such, it is a prayer to which God always responds.
Lament is an invitation to unapologetically mourn and grieve before the Lord over the big and small things alike. It’s an invitation to stop denying your emotions. It is permission to be something other than “fine.” It is to silence the voice that tells you all the reasons why your feelings don’t matter. It is the space and place to make peace with your brokenness so that God can give you strength.
But here’s what we need to remember: Lament is not a final destination. It’s a gateway to something even greater.
Fleece goes on to say, “Lament is a pathway. Honest expression to God makes way for God to come and work His real healing. Lament is a channel for powerful transformation.”
What you’ve got to know is the same psalmists who expressed their hurt and frustration to the Lord were the same ones who concluded that God is holy (Psalm 22:3), mighty (Psalm 77:14) and worthy of praise. (Psalm 22:22)
What am I trying to tell you today? Ask God what you want to know! Say what you’re “not supposed to” say so you can get where you’re supposed to be. Use this gateway called lament so you can experience God in a more intimate way.
Here’s what happens: As you connect with God in honesty, an increase in spiritual hunger and desire likely follows because you’ve opened yourself up to experience God.
That’s why the Bible says, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18) and “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) God wants to meet you in your pain!
Say “No” to Numb
Let me ask you something. What are you feeling right now? Sometimes, we don’t even know the answer to that question. We’re so accustomed to holding it together, being strong, carrying on and sucking it up to make sure everyone else is taken care of that we can be out of touch with our own feelings.
We’ve gone numb. And numb can be very dangerous.
If you’ve ever gotten Novocaine from the dentist’s office, you know that it makes you numb. The dentist knows that the amount of pain you’re about to experience is too much for you to handle, so he or she takes away your sense of feeling so that you can withstand the procedure.
Afterward, your dentist advises you about when to expect your sense of feeling to return. Why? Because you can’t stay numb forever.
If you don’t regain your ability to feel, you’ll eat your tongue and chew your lip all up and won’t even know it! When you can’t feel, you can’t heal.
You can’t live your life on emotional Novocaine! It might have been what you needed for a time. It worked so you could get up and go to work. And make it to class. And get the kids fed and off to school while you were going through that particularly difficult situation. But you can’t stay numb. You’ve got to get your feeling back so healing can begin.
You have to feel in order to heal.
How many times have you denied yourself your own tears? How many times have you preferred to stay indifferent and disconnected with what’s going on in your heart?
What if your tears are a gift God gives you to connect with what you’re feeling so that you can connect with Him?
Do what Jesus did
Jesus wasn’t afraid to feel. John 11:35, the shortest verse in the whole Bible, simply says, “Jesus wept.” Jesus, who had once announced that He would “awaken” His friend Lazarus (John 11:11) and resuscitate him from the dead, now wept over his lifeless body.
The beauty of walking with Jesus through the trials of life is that although He knows we will experience ultimate joy and restoration in eternity, He still weeps with us in our sorrow and shares in our pain in a very deep and profound way.
It’s as if to say we can have faith and still weep. We can have faith and still feel. They are not mutually exclusive. They can actually coexist quite beautifully.
Feelings don’t mean your faith is weak or you’re not a good Christian. Give yourself full freedom to experience both so that God can lead you to new levels of authentic connection with Him. We are not led by our feelings, but we face our feelings so we can experience freedom.
Meet God at the Gate
It’s like we are standing at a gate and true intimacy with God is on the other side. We desperately want to be close to God, so we try really hard to pry the gate open. But we can’t do it because it’s stuck in the mud. So we say, “I’ve just got to push harder. I just need a little more Bible study. And a little more prayer meeting.”
But nothing we try seems to work. And we’re frustrated. We do all the things we know to do, but we can’t find intimacy. (3)
As we stand at the gate, pushing and pulling for dear life, I think this is what God wants to say to us: “Daughter, you’re trying your best to get to me, but you can’t do it because you’re too polished. You’re too put together. It is through your brokenness, not your effort, that you will find intimacy with me. In your brokenness, I will be the one to draw you to me.”
So, as we embark on “the most wonderful time of the year,” know that it’s ok if you don’t feel so wonderful. And God wants to hear all about it.
(1) Psalm 77:8
(2) D.A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil, 2nded. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 67.
(3) Certainly, Bible intake and prayer are vital in developing intimacy with God. I would never want to suggest otherwise. However, there are times when we’re doing all the “right” things yet still feel far from Him.