Embracing Lament: Learning from Heman's Heartfelt Cry in Psalm 88
Part 2 of 5 of my customized ChatGPT writing and reflecting experiment on lament.
Article is a part of my personal experiment with ChatGPT. Learn more here.
In the journey of faith and leadership, we often encounter moments that challenge our resilience and test our trust in God. It's in these times that the raw, unfiltered words of Heman the Ezrahite in Psalm 88 resonate deeply with us. But who was Heman? And what can we, as growing Christian leaders, learn from his honest outcry?
Heman, a Levite musician appointed by David, was known for his wisdom and musical talent. Yet, in Psalm 88, we encounter a different side of him—a side grappling with deep despair. Heman's lament is a stark, unvarnished plea to God, filled with pain and the heaviness of unrelieved suffering. It's a vivid picture of a soul in distress, feeling abandoned and overwhelmed by darkness.
What strikes me about Heman’s Psalm is its brutal honesty. It doesn't sugarcoat pain or dress it up in religious platitudes. Heman lays his heart bare before God, using metaphors of darkness, isolation, and despair. He doesn’t hold back in expressing his feelings of abandonment, even by God. This is significant for us as leaders and believers because it teaches us the importance of being authentic in our relationship with God. Heman reminds us that it’s okay to not be okay, and it's more than okay to bring this to God.
As C.S. Lewis insightfully penned, “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Lewis captures the essence of how pain, often a difficult and unwelcome teacher, brings us into a more profound awareness of our need for God and the realities of life.
As leaders, we often feel the pressure to appear strong and unshakeable. However, embracing our vulnerability and bringing our pain to God is a profound act of trust and strength. It’s about acknowledging that we are not in control and that we depend on God's grace and presence, even when we don't feel it. Heman’s prayer is a lesson in spiritual courage—daring to confront and verbalize our deepest struggles.
Henri Nouwen, another spiritual giant, offered wisdom on this: “The way of the Christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross.” This downward journey often involves embracing our pain and suffering, not as signs of failure, but as opportunities to deepen our reliance on God and to develop empathy and compassion.
What’s more, Psalm 88 doesn’t conclude with a neat resolution or a sudden burst of hope. And that's alright. It reflects those seasons in life where the darkness doesn't seem to lift immediately, where answers are not forthcoming, and where God seems silent. Yet, the very act of crying out to God is a testament to Heman’s faith. In his despair, he still turns to God, affirming that even in the deepest pit, God is the one he reaches out to.
For us, this is a powerful reminder that our faith journey isn’t about constant victories or unending highs. It’s about being real with God, about bringing our entire self—pain, questions, doubts—to Him. In a culture that often avoids talking about pain and suffering, Heman’s example is a call to embrace lament as a form of worship and trust.
As Christian leaders, let’s take heart from Heman's example. Let’s encourage those we lead to be honest in their struggles, assuring them that God is big enough to handle our doubts and fears. Let's model a faith that isn't afraid of the dark valleys, knowing that even there, God is with us, listening and walking alongside us.
Remember, it’s in the honesty of our lament that we often find the deepest connection with God. So, let’s be brave, let’s be real, and let’s keep turning to our listening God, just like Heman did.
Inspired by this YouVersion plan: 'Getting Honest With God: Learn the 4 Practices of Lament'.