For me, the first week of a New Year is a tender time set to some sorrowful notes.
On this day, 13 years ago, my daughter died. For 13 years, I journeyed to understand the place of suffering in the world and in my heart — and to find the place of God amid all the pain.
At the start of this year, I grabbed a devotional that has sat on my bookshelf for years. One written by a famous theologian who has written many profound words that I have deeply resonated with.
But when I read Spurgeon’s words on the evening of January 1st, my heart sank. I closed the book and put it down. I wondered if I had somehow misread or misunderstood them.
But I hadn’t. I re-read and re-read the passage and prayed.
The words causing me trouble, the words echoing past words that have caused me to stumble through suffering, were these:
“We will not open the gates of the year to the sorrowful notes of the organ… Let others lament over their troubles; we with joy will magnify the Lord… Jesus must have the crown of our heart’s delight [yes, I agree]; we will not dishonor our Bridegroom by mourning in His presence [I’m sorry, what? No, that’s not right].”
To think that our mourning would dishonor the Lord. To think that lament is not for the believer. To consider our troubles unwelcome and to see joy bypassing pain. These are the disorienting messages of a faulty theology of suffering that can cause unbearable pain.
While I can turn these words over to understand their intent and find their lining of truth, I can’t look past how they can cause potential harm to those already suffering.
What I’ve learned, as I’ve poured over Scripture, is that our mourning and sorrow are welcomed by the Lord, that they are a source of communion, that they are where we intersect with the richness of His love and delight, that He is in fact in the midst of our suffering, at work, so that the world might see Him and He might be glorified—He is magnified by the suffering hearts who seek Him.
If your year opened with sorrowful notes, may you know that lament song needs to be played; it will lead your heart to the Lord.
God invites you to lament your troubles. He’s not ashamed of your pain or that “you’re still not over it.” He’s not disappointed in you because your sorrow lingers. He’s not dishonored by your mourning in His presence.
Your heart — with all its hurting, breaking, tearing, and bruising — is invited to come as you are before the Lord.
He welcomes you in, and so do I.
For anyone needing to lament in this New Year, for anyone who hears the sorrowful notes of the organ, I created a journal for lament for you. May it lead you to find rest and restoration in the Lord.