Mike Leake – Learning the Language of Lament (Part Five)

I’ve got a challenge for you. Scroll through your preferred social media platform and see how many posts it takes to find someone complaining about a political leader or an action of a political leader. My guess is you won’t get to double digits before you see some sort of complaint recorded.

As freedom loving Americans we value our ability to air our opinions of our leaders. We the people are supposed to hold the weight in this country and we don’t like it when a leader attempts to tell us what to do. They might hold a particular office at present but we know that they aren’t any different or better than us. We’ve been given the freedom to complain and so we are going to use it.

All that is well and good but we end up sounding an awful lot like those in Korah’s rebellion. Granted, grumbling against Moses is a tad bit different than grumbling against a politician. Though we could argue that God places every leader in place it isn’t quite a one to one comparison. Nevertheless, one of the things I found present in almost all instances of grumbling that I did not find present in lament is a kicking at God’s sovereign rule. And particularly a displeasure at the leaders that God has set before them.

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Mike Leake – Learning the Language of Lament (Part Four)

In his book, Battling Unbelief, Barnabas Piper explains the difference between believing doubt and unbelieving doubt. Of unbelieving doubt he says:

When unbelieving doubt poses a question, it is not interested in the answer for any reason other than to disprove it. Unbelieving doubt is on the attack. It is much more interested in the devastating effect of the question itself to erode the asker’s belief and hope in what is being questioned. The asker is not asking to learn; she is asking in order to devastate. She does not want to progress to an answer. She wants to show that there is no answer. Unbelieving doubt is not working toward anything but merely against belief.

Believing doubt, on the other hand, is a doubt which seeks the truth. There is a similar difference between the language of lament and the language of grumbling and complaining. The grumbler consistently questions God’s character. The Israelite grumblers in the Sinai desert repeatedly questioned whether or not God was actually for them. Even after all of the displays of God’s power, protection, and care for them they still harbored a belief that God was brought them out of Egypt to slay them in the wilderness.

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Mike Leake – Learning the Language of Lament (Part Three)

God’s Word is very clear in that we are to do all things without grumbling and complaining. We are not released from this imperative simply because we are having a bad day or because actual gut-wrenching suffering has slapped us in the face. It is never permissible to grumble and complain.

Yet we also read in the Scriptures that we are to cast all of our cares upon the Lord. We are given examples of this in the Psalms. There is an earthiness to the Psalms that at times almost seems inappropriate to pray. Or consider the words of Habakkuk as he wrestles with how God’s character fits with the present circumstances. These words are not only not met by rebuke, but at least in the case of the Psalms we are called to sing them ourselves.

Considering these things led me on a quest to compare the laments of the Bible with the sections in which God responds in anger to people accused of grumbling and complaining. What is the difference between biblical lament and grumbling and complaining?

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Mike Leake – Learning the Language of Lament (Part Two)

At the local music store you notice an interesting book entitled Praises. As you open the book you realize it’s over a hundred songs of praise to God. So, what type of songs would you expect in a book with the title Praises? What do you expect of the music? The lyrics? What does it feel like?

When I hear the word “praise” I tend to think of upbeat, celebratory, and exulting type of music. I expect lyrics about how wonderful things are in our life with Jesus, meditations on everything he has accomplished for us, with upbeat music accompanying the mostly positive lyrics.

This is why I’m a bit shocked to discover that the book of Psalms (a translation of the Hebrew word for praises) is filled with over sixty songs of lament. At least 40% of the songs are about bad situations and praying that God will deliver you from them. Some of them (like Psalm 88) do not strike on positive chord.

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Mike Leake – Learning the Language of Lament

Have you read the headlines today? I’m certain they are mostly negative. I doubt the headline story was about a faithful husband who put in a good day of work, came home kissed his wife, and had an enjoyable evening with his family. There won’t be a feature story about the stay at home mom who knocked it out of the park homeschooling her kids, engaged in a good Bible study, and got the house in order for company this week.

You won’t read those stories. Of course, you might read a story about how a local pastor was accused of misogyny and gender stereotyping for writing an article and having the husband at work and the wife at home getting the house in order. And that’s because we are trained to spot flaws and try to find things to take swipes at. It couldn’t just be that it’s a reflection of that pastors actual day and that he doesn’t intend to make any comment on gender roles.

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