by Shane Fookes, MA LPC Intern
This is the fourth in a series of posts on lament. The first post addressed the importance of lament. The second post addressed the purpose of lament. The third post made the important connection between emotions and lament. This post provides the process of lament.
What Provokes Emotion?
As I’m sure you’re aware, emotions can be provoked by pretty much anything in everyday life. Maybe you can relate to these examples:
- A friend makes a critical comment and you feel hurt or angry or anxious.
- Your spouse gives you a compliment and you feel happy.
- A co-worker receives an award and you feel jealous.
- You get laid off from your job and you feel sad and scared.
Of course, the same life events could provoke entirely different emotions in you than they do in others. This isn’t about “right” emotions or “wrong” emotions. Emotions simply are. I’m not saying you have to like feeling them. I’m inviting you to value them and make room for them, especially the uncomfortable ones like anger, fear, sadness, jealousy, shame, despair, and disgust.
What Our Emotions Reveal
But feeling these feelings is hard, isn’t it? They give you a sense of feeling out of control and going in a direction you don’t want to go. Part of you says something is wrong with you when you feel these feelings. Am I right?
So you may wonder, “What good can come from feeling these emotions?” Well, for starters, they let you know what you really believe about your circumstances – not what you say you believe, but your actual lived-out belief. And when you’re honest with yourself (and others) about your lived-out belief, you are in a position to examine what’s most important to you. Then you can act on your chosen values rather than merely reacting to what’s going on around you. In other words, you become empowered.
So what do these uncomfortable emotions reveal? Here’s a basic starting point for understanding1:
- Anger reveals injustice. Something’s not “right” (and how you determine what’s right).
- Sadness reveals loss. Something important to you has been or could be lost.
- Jealousy reveals longing. You desire more from life than you currently have.
- Shame reveals identity. You rely upon something to determine your value.
- Despair reveals goals. You want to accomplish something that feels impossible.
- Disgust reveals beauty. An ideal that delights you has been marred or tainted.
As you can hopefully see, these emotions can help you discover more about who you are, what you value, and who you want to become. Talking them through with trusted others (like your counselor) is important. Talking to God about them – lamenting – is also crucial.
How to Talk About Difficult Emotions With God
So what does lament involve? Well, the basic structure of lament psalms can help “mentor” you through the process of lament when something in your life doesn’t make sense and provokes one of these emotions. These psalms address disorienting experiences relationally with God. As I touched on in the first blog post in this series, lament psalms follow a basic form:
- Addressed to God
- Offers a complaint
- Asks for help
- Expresses faith in being heard
- Rehearses what’s true of God (even though it may not feel true)
The psalms communicate an open posture toward God and a confidence that He is near. By writing and reading both the biblical psalms and your own, you invite God to examine you and teach you through his Spirit. Many of the lament psalms take something that God says is true and wrestle with it. “God, you say you are near, but I don’t feel it. Where are you?” When this is understood through the lens of attachment, the very process of struggle strengthens the relationship bond. God’s invitation through the psalms is to find rest in His character and provision. The picture Jesus paints in Matthew 11:28-30 illustrates God’s receptive heart when we come to Him with our troubles.
1To learn more about what emotions reveal, I recommend the book Why Emotions Matter by Tristen and Jonathan Collins
Learn More About Lament
You can also learn more in the following posts in our 5-part series on lament:
- Importance of Lament
- Purpose of Lament
- Emotions and Lament
- Process of Lament (here)
- Hope and Waiting in Lament
CONSIDER ONLINE THERAPY IN OREGON FOR CHRISTIAN COUNSELING
Our Clackamas and Hillsboro-based counselors are excited to work with you, wherever you are in Oregon. Your relationships can thrive again. We can help you get back on track in a way that aligns with your faith and values. When you are ready to start online Christian counseling in Oregon, follow these simple steps:
- Learn about our therapy team in Hillsboro and our caring counselors in Clackamas
- Schedule an appointment with your preferred therapist, or contact us with questions
- Feel more connected to the important people in your life
OTHER MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES AT LIFE DISCOVERY COUNSELING IN OREGON
If you are in Clackamas, Happy Valley, Damascus, or Hillsboro, we can help you in person at one of our comfortable therapy clinics. Christian counseling is the cornerstone of our approach to therapy. Not only do we see adults, but children in counseling too. We also work with depression treatment, anxiety therapy, trauma therapy and PTSD treatment, relationship issues, marriage problems, and postpartum counseling. No matter where you are in the state, we can provide the support you need with online therapy in Oregon. Once you’re ready to start, we’re ready to meet you. Let’s connect!