What Do We Do With Pain?
In ninth grade English class, my brutally honest professor once asked me, "Josh, do you know why your papers get C's? Because your Christianity keeps you from writing honestly about the evil in the novels we're reading- and in your life as well."
He was right. At the time, my understanding of evil was that any kind of worthy faith in God explained it away- if not with denial, then certainly with trivial answers and quickly referenced scripture verses.
A number of years later I spent a summer preaching through the different genres of the psalms for a church in Tennessee. I didn't know it then, but that summer would become a turning point in my theology, in my relationship with God, and in my relationship with suffering. That's because I learned that, more than any other kind of Psalm in Israel's hymnbook, there are Psalms of Lament, of sadness, pain, anger, confusion, ambiguity, and discouragement.
So what does it say to us, in the wake of the shootings in Orlando last Sunday, that God's people wrote more sad songs than any other kind in their hymns of "praise?"
Here is the audio link to a sermon on Psalm 13 I gave a few years ago. The title is a phrase from Nicholas Wolterstorff's fantastic (and heartbreaking) book "Lament For A Son," where he says that every lament is [ultimately] a love song.
By the way, during that summer of preaching on the psalms, I tried to write a modern day psalm of lament. I called it "I Need You." A few years later it was picked up by a band called the Swift and got some radio play. You can hear the song here.
You can hear the Swift's version of the song here.