Several months ago in church, we sang a song with the following lyric: “We cast away our shadows, trust you with our sorrows.”
I’ve since learned the song is called “Joy” by Rend Collective. It’s quickly become a song of obsession.
Shortly after hearing this song, I read the following verse during one of my morning devotionals, “The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’” (Jeremiah 2.8, NRSV).
Intrigued by this, I read the footnote at the bottom of the page: “Israel is not only incapable of recalling its history, but is incapable of engaging in lament, or complaining, ‘Where is the Lord?”! The loss of lament indicates the loss of relationship. ‘The priests did not say’ reminds the priests that they were to lead the community in such complaint, and had failed to do so. If the community cannot complain to God, it cannot trust in God” (New Oxford Annotated Bible, 2010, p. 1060).*
So, like any good biblical scholar, I developed a theology around one verse and one footnote (sense the tone: this is bad biblical theology and goes against my biblical training. I don’t recommend this).
At the time Jeremiah prophesies, King Josiah of Judah is on his way out and Babylon rises to power, invades Judah, and deports God’s covenant people, Israel, from their land. The entire book is about Israel’s covenant unfaithfulness and the ramifications of this pre-, mid- and post-exile.
What is so profound about the above verse is that lament is foundational to the covenant; that weeping and mourning function as a trust-barometer for Israel’s relationship with God. Part of Israel’s covenant adultery then, involves failing to cry out to God; an unwillingness to trust him with their sorrows. God claims that Israel’s inability to wail, “Where is the Lord?” indicates a fractured relationship, devoid of faith in God’s integrity and character; lacking hope in God’s ability to rescue, provide, and protect. To borrow a well-known therapy motto (re-phrased in the 2nd person plural), God basically asks his people, “Do you trust me enough to tell me the truth about what you think, feel, and need?” and in this verse, Israel says, “I don’t trust you enough.”
Any good therapist will tell you that the basis of an emotionally-solid, trust-filled human relationship is answering “yes” to the above question, and then actively expressing the very things the question asks.
The same applies to our relationship with God.
Whether individual or communal, God doesn’t deem our complaints unappreciative or our grief ungrateful. He doesn’t condemn our sadness or ridicule our sorrow. Rather, it’s the reverse. He welcomes them. He invites us to share our deepest pains and fears. He sees them as an expression of trust; the very crux of our relationship with him.
Despite this invitation, trusting God is challenging. Trusting him specifically with our sorrows is even more difficult.
Sharing our sorrows is extremely vulnerable (hence why it’s so hard). There’s a rawness to the pain and betrayal we feel; a sensitivity to our frustration and loss; and perhaps a fear of the response we might receive when we express these feelings. In sharing these with God, we’re opening up ourselves, and saying, “Come inside. Be in these disappointments and shattered expectations with me.”
This might be painful and scary, yet, as Rend Collective already knows, joy is the antonym of sorrow, and is often found on the other side of our cathartic sharing with God. Hence the name of their song.
Our willingness to name our pain indicates our willingness to trust God’s trustworthy character. Speaking our sorrows to God is what it means to be in relationship with him. It’s a testimony to the confidence we have in God; it’s evidence of our reliance upon him. And, it reminds us that God, in fact, wants to hear.
In sharing our deepest griefs and most profound hurts, we’re telling God, “I trust you enough.”
*If any of my students are reading this blog, please note that this isn’t how you cite the footnotes in the bottom of your Bible. This is my hypocrisy of the day.