Jeremy Visser asked the Kuyper College community a simple question as faculty, staff and students gathered in the Vos Chapel on November 21 for a twice-weekly service.
“Whether you’re in a church, nonprofit, or just living your daily life as a Christian, what is one way you can distinctly model the Gospel and the totality of Scripture to anyone you serve in a distinctly Christian way,” the Kuyper grad and pastor of Trinity Church in Hudsonville said.
The answer, he added, can be found in Psalm 77.
After reading from his chosen passage, he noted that it gives us a blueprint for living lives of service to others, not on their happiest days, but on their darkest, most difficult days.
This, he said, is because this portion of Scripture shows us the biblical category of lament.
“A lament drives us into the character, promises, actions, and purposes of God in the midst of a real life of real pain. It’s a form a prayer and praise that helps us draw close to God in a time of suffering,” he emphasized.
Anyone seeking to practice lament need not look far for examples, he told his listeners.
“God saw fit to make one of the books of Scripture, the book of Lamentations, nothing but lament. Habakkuk spends the bulk of his time lamenting. In Numbers 14:11, God Himself laments over the condition of His people. And one-third of the Psalms teach you how to go to God in this kind of Biblical complaint,” he said.
Instead of succumbing to the negative temptations of our imperfect human nature, Visser said that knowing this pattern well can help us live and lead others in it in times of trouble.
“The Psalms of lament tell us that there is a better way than falling into complaining, whining, slander, worry or grumbling. For yourself, personally, but even more so when you counsel, care for and live life with other people,” he said.
Rather than settling for the kind of trite platitudes he referred to as “Hallmark Christianity”, Visser said that biblical lament allows us to give those we serve a much deeper, truer kind of comfort.
“One of the ways you, as a Christian leader, can lead and disciple people in their days of trouble is to say, ‘Let’s lament,’” he said.