I’d lost my job in mid-November but within just three weeks was talking with a young, growing Christian organization that needed a Chief Operating Officer. The timing, the role, the vision – everything seemed to be moving in the right direction. I was excited, Eiley was excited; there was hope. Then, just two weeks before I was to start, I got a call from the President: “We’re going to stop the process. We don’t think you’re the right fit.” I was crushed. Hope shattered into despair.
I lay in the dark on my living room floor. For two hours I cried out desperately to God. “Why? Am I not good enough? Why? Why? Why?!” Sometimes words were washed away in a flood of tears and groans. I wept for God’s presence as much as his answers. He seemed silent, distant, uncaring. And I found myself in an unfamiliar place, standing on the precipice of a monumental choice: to abandon the God I’d known my whole life, or to cling ever more tightly to One who seemed to have abandoned me.
A familiar passage of Scripture floated into my mind, blown by an unseen gust over the edge of my despair. It was Exodus 32, when Jacob spends a sleepless night grappling with a strange man. Hours pass in exhausting, nocturnal combat. Jacob’s hip is dislocated but neither man prevails. As day breaks, the stranger says to let him go, but Jacob wants something out of the match: “I will not let you go until you bless me.” In the newborn light he is blessed with a new name—Israel—and discovers that his wrestling was with God. In my own struggle on the cliff’s edge, Jacob’s cry became my mantra: “I will not let you go, I will not let you go, I will not let you go.”
A second passage blew into my thoughts: John 6. There, the hard sayings of Jesus proved too much for many of his followers, who “turned back and no longer walked with him.” Jesus said to the twelve who remained, “Do you want to leave as well?” Faithful Peter’s response caught me: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life….”
For someone who has grown up believing in God and seeking to follow him, standing on the precipice of faith, facing a choice between abandoning God or clinging to him…it’s frightening. No, it’s almost terrifying. Choosing to cling to a God who seems deaf and blind—or, worse, uncaring or even absent—seems foolhardy at best.
King David felt that many times in his life. He’d grown up alone among seven brothers, a shepherd boy not old enough for the soldiering of his siblings. Over the twenty years between his anointing as king and his accession to the throne, he felt the solitude of King Saul’s murderous jealousy. Under the crown, he knew the loneliness of leadership and the fear of enemies both foreign and domestic. And as a poet, he felt the aloneness deeply, pouring out his heart in verse and song.
The Bible is filled with laments—grieving hearts baring their pain in words flowing with both anguish and anger. But there is hope in Biblical lament; almost without exception, the anguish and anger turn to hope and trust, clinging to confidence in a God who, even in silence, is there. The laments of Scripture give us permission to bare our own hearts before a God whose silent presence is unnervingly powerful and comfortingly real.
Spend some time reading, re-reading, and reflecting on Psalm 22.