Yesterday, I stood beside some friends in church who are grieving a loss. It’s a loss that was prayed against, believed against, and yet still a devastating reality today. We ended the service singing a song about victory and the battle belonging to the Lord and I realized again how nuanced our lives and beliefs are. The song was true. Right in that moment though? It was salt in a wound. Instead of victory, there was defeat. At least in this moment.
I read a source for class last week that talked about two ways that we saw God working in the world and then the author added a third that I typically do not see. “God works in mystery.” Sometimes (maybe often?) we have no idea what God is doing. We do not know why God works the way He does, allows the things He does, does not intervene when He could. We sing about God’s sovereignty and power and goodness, and we look around at the world and it does not match what we believe about God.
Leaving room for the mystery of God provides a safe place for us. We acknowledge that God is beyond us. We wrestle with our lack of understanding. We can model our prayers after the psalms of lament. Most of the lament psalms ended with some recognition of God’s character and an expression of even meager faith, but a few don’t. A few rail, “God, why have you forsaken us? Why has this happened? Where are you?” and that’s the end.
Throughout our lives, we typically cycle through the stages of the psalms. Some parts are absolute belief in who God says God is, a rehearsal of all His mighty works, and praise for deliverance and provision and good gifts. Other times, we struggle but keep coming back to belief and a measure of hope. Sometimes though, it’s grief and anger and questions. When we gather as a believing community, all of those stages are represented. It’s one reason we need each other. Sometimes, someone else’s faith sustains our own. Sometimes, someone else’s story reminds us that God is the author of our own as well. It is (or should be) a safe place to offer up our own prayers of lament, even the ones that end in despair.
We’re going to see a victory, but sometimes it’s delayed until Jesus returns.