Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
and an object of dread to my closest friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
I am forgotten as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
I always thank my God
as I remember you in my prayers.
Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.
(Psalm 31:9, 10, 11a, 12, 24)
This lament from Psalm 31 stopped me in my tracks. Those words, written so long ago, speak to my experience with chronic illness even today. Perhaps you can identify too?
Sadness over what I have lost was felt again as I read these words: My strength fails, my bones grow weak, the object of dread to my friends – all words I need to release in prayer to the One who is big enough, strong enough, and more than ready to love me as He listens to my anguish.
What I’ve learned so far on this journey is that chronic illness is hard, and to travel this road well, we need regular infusions of hope.
Don’t we all struggle with feeling forgotten as though I were dead from time to time? Chronic illness is exhausting and it’s frustrating. It’s a thousand little, yet sustained losses, because really, what we often feel, though seldom recognize, is that it’s grief.
And while it is both necessary and good to acknowledge our pain, grief and anger, we also need practical ways to begin to find hope again. Reading these words of lament gives me the gift of sitting with God in the hard and allowing His Spirit to be the balm of wounds that sometimes receive little attention as I tend to spend more time taking care of treating my physical conditions, perhaps because physical pain screams louder, but our hearts and souls need care and treatment, too.
In the Bible, hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised, and its strength is rooted in God’s faithfulness. Yet often getting to hope requires an arduous journey through the pain. The Bible offers many psalms of lament to help guide us through grief and to release what was in order to embrace what is. I need practical ways of finding hope, because like many of you, I tend to step off the path when it’s too cold or I have another health flare, or when I’m tired from poor sleep again, and the list can go on.
Lament came as a bit of a surprise to me, because the simple idea of praying God’s words back to Him has a healing effect on the broken pottery that resembles my heart. I am learning this about Biblical lament:
- It restores a sacred dignity to our suffering. An entire book of the Bible, Lamentations, was written for our benefit so that we can see the hard, the often undignified wounding, disappointment ,and anguish that the writers were experiencing, in order to find dignity at the feet of God. If they can find dignity there, so can we.
- It is a form of protest – like saying, essentially, a foot-stomping, gut-level honesty that helps us to move through grief so we don’t grow bitter.
- It’s a way to process our emotions with God. Lament is not complaining about God, but to God. As ambassadors of God, we have the unique privilege of showing others that regardless of what we feel, God is right there with us, guiding us, holding us and sustaining us.
- It is a place to voice -our concerns to our Heavenly Father – all of them, even the ones we think we shouldn’t say. There are no shoulds or shouldn’ts with lament. All we need is a willingness to reach for the Father’s hand. He will guide us one step at a time always pointing us toward hope.
As I hear Jesus whisper, I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, as He walks hand-in-hand with me through the hard – intimately understanding what it means to live with distress, sorrow, grief and affliction – I am encouraged to be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. As I rest in God, I can, indeed, find peace and hope for the next step of the journey, knowing I don’t carry my burden alone and that I needn’t too far ahead.
Find a beautiful, FREE printable guide to Writing Your own Psalm of Lament here.
Grant us humility in our affliction and in our illness, courage to ask for help and to receive your mercies, new every morning.
Where we are dependent on others, let us gratefully receive their help, graciously releasing any shame we feel about being the one in need.
And in those times when our bodies falter, help us to release the sadness, frustration, and deep anguish into Your capable hands, guiding us through grief on our journey toward hope, purpose, worth and joy.
This month, we are:
- Praying for courage to lament, grieve, and release what was in order to embrace what is.
- Praying for caregivers to sense Your inspiration to serve loved ones with the compassion, gentleness and kindness of the Good Shepherd.
- Thankful for all our Heavenly Father has done and is doing in and through the ministry of Chronic Joy.
- Praying that we may indeed be strong and take heart as we place our hope firmly in You.
- Praying simply for Your grace to be sufficient, so that Your power is made perfect in our weakness.
Prayer is the heartbeat of Chronic Joy Ministry. We are always honored and blessed to pray for you.
President and Co-Founder at Chronic Joy Ministry
Pamela is a leader and a visionary following God’s calI to inspire those affected by chronic illness to discover hope, find purpose, embrace worth and encounter joy. She believes every precious life affected by chronic illness is both vital and purposed.
Chronic illness is hard, but there is hope. There is always hope!