Learning to Lament- Living to Praise

Beth B has been a part of the church family for the past six years. She is the wife of Stuart, who is involved in International Ministries here. In February she began to experience symptoms that could not be ignored. A visit to the GP, blood work, and 4 days in hospital led to a diagnosis of bile duct cancer. The next weeks were filled with procedures, tests, and preparations for major surgery. Beth shares a bit here on how she has lamented and what she learned through lamenting.

I looked at the thermometer, 38.8. Another fever. I knew what that meant. I needed to call Weston Park, which would most likely mean a trip to the hospital and an overnight stay. It was July, four months after surgery, and I had just begun chemotherapy.

I was disappointed. This would delay my chemo treatments. This is not what I wanted!

Before I even got out of bed, I thought through the components of lament and prayed a short lament.

“God, Why another fever? I am disappointed and tired of fevers. I don’t want another trip to hospital. God, please take this fever from me. But in all this I know that you are God, you will go with me, and you are good. I can praise you.”

I called and was told to come in. I packed my bag, thinking I would stay for one night. One night became three nights. My disappointment increased, but at least I knew God was with me.

The lament gave me a place to voice my disappointment, but then to focus on God’s promises and who God is. God reminded me that he was with me (Hebrews 13:5).

It had all begun in February when I received the diagnosis. Surgery was scheduled for 16 March. It was successful in getting all of the cancer that could be seen but, in the process, 70 percent of my liver was removed.

The following months were spent resting, having repeated blood work, and recovering very slowly, with multiple setbacks. All of this coincided with the beginning of lockdown. It was a difficult time physically, mentally, and spiritually. As I realised how it had impacted me, I knew that I needed to think and process all that had happened. I needed to lament.

I began by listing the changes I had experienced. The physical changes, how this had impacted me emotionally, the way relationships had changed. I needed to deal with the pain, disappointment, and suffering. It helped me just to understand some of what had happened.

This was the beginning of lamenting. It was my complaint to God, just telling him all that had happened. I was honest—after all, he already knew everything.

My request, and a bold one, was for healing. I knew that healing would mean suffering and pain and chemo, but I yearned for physical healing so that I could continue to serve God.

All of this led me to praise God for who he is. Reflecting on what I knew about God, I again saw evidence of his sovereignty as he worked so many details out. I knew his presence, as he was with me during procedures, tests, and surgery. I remembered that God is good, and that I can trust him with all my days, regardless of my health. I knew that God can heal and that he is a God of mercy. In all this, I could trust in God.

I took the time and wrote down my lament. As I wrote, I was able to think and ponder more deeply. Writing it helped me so much.

Lamenting helped me to voice my pain, but then to move from the pain to praise. It did not minimise my suffering, but changed my focus from myself to God.

My situation has not changed. I had cancer surgery and now am going through chemo, but as I lament I am learning to praise God. “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.” Psalm 43:5 (NIV).

As I am learning to lament, I am living to praise.

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