Is it this place that makes me fall from you
Forget the words that once rang so true
Did we expect that life was ever fair, my god . . .
I sowed a field of rose and reaped a whipping rod
And everything I’ve held too tight inside
Could make a part of me die
And if my lips could only speak the name
The dam would break
– Glen Phillips, Dam Would Break
Doubt. Pain. Suffering. Loneliness. Failure. Despair. Disappointment.
The language of lament is not welcome in most contemporary Christianity. Evangelicals in particular must be held responsible for creating an atmosphere where a person in pain and loss cannot speak in the SAME LANGUAGE THE BIBLE USES (excuse the caps. Sorry.) without running the risk of controversy and heresy.
Ironically, Christians specialize in the language of glory and triumph, gullibly believing any report of miracles and healings must be true in order to prove that God is still doing what they’ve been told he should always do, but it is the experience and language of lament- disappointment and sorrow- that would tell honest unbelievers that we live in the same world as they do, yet still believe in God. Our proficiency in triumphalism backfires with the genuine souls who want to know if God is still there when he seems so absent.
While I do appreciate Kingdom theology, and believe that God is alive and well and that miracles still happen, the reality is that life is a struggle. I mean, just look at Jesus – even he struggled. Read that Garden scene again. David Hayward, one of my favorite cartoonists and bloggers, has addressed this issue of “happy Christianity” many times. One of my new favorites is here.
That’s not to say that everything Joel Osteen says is garbage; in fact, I find what he has to say about thinking positively and believing what God says very important, especially in dealing with the issue of suffering, doubt, and so on. You see, many of our problems are simply our own fault. Christians can be just as stupid as anyone else, and changing your attitude and approach to life can avoid many needless trials and tribulations. That, however, doesn’t mean that there aren’t real struggles to deal with. People get sick, people die, bad things happen to good people (and good things happen to bad people). Life isn’t fair. To paraphrase the old song, God never promised us a rose garden. There’s a time to laugh, and a time to lament.
Paul says that creation is groaning in anticipation of redemption. So why should we be any different?