“Life is difficult.” So says M. Scott Peck in his classic “The Road Less Travelled”. How to deal with the difficulties of life is one of the perennial challenges that we all face. And yet it is a challenge that seems to me to be under-discussed and under resourced when it comes to expressing those difficulties within the life of Christian faith.
My study of the psalms of lament opened a whole new understanding of prayer and communion with God for me. Lament has resourced my spiritual life ever since, and I have tried to make the fruit of that as widely available as possible. (That doesn’t just mean that I moan a lot, although my colleagues might disagree.)
And so it is that I find myself trying to develop a website with next to no relevant expertise and a decided lack of creative flair. Once again, life is difficult.
First of all, there is the technical difficulty. WordPress is truly wonderful, and I am astonished at the sophistication that is freely available to me. But it is quite difficult to find my way around. I do not understand what at least half the menus mean, and the one thing that I specifically want to do, I can find no way of doing.
Next comes the creative block: I’ve worked out where to write something, but what shall I write? For all the websites I have ever visited, I cannot quite imagine what makes a good one or what is a useful thing to put on the homepage.
And this leads me, on reflection, to the deeper difficulty: vulnerability. What will people think of me? What sort of comments will I get? Will anyone ever even find this site or read anything anyway?
Now to be clear: I am not rehearsing these challenges that I face as an exercise in self-pity or seeking solace. As one of my inner voices reminds me: “You’re a big boy. Deal with it.” But this prompts me again to consider my original question: how to “deal with it”?
In particular, how might I pray about these kind of feelings? Do they have any place in my devotional life at all? There are people I’ve come across in the past who have told me that they do not. I think that such an attitude is driven by the fear that negative feelings, once identified and engaged with, will grow and become consuming; that expressing them will only foster them.
But even the most superficial reading of a psalm of lament tells us that this need not be the case. No matter how serious the distress of the psalmist (and it usually is pretty serious) the expression of lament almost always leads to an expression of praise.
So the psalms model for me a pattern of prayer that is fully authentic in its expression of doubt and distress, but which uses that expression as a vehicle to a renewed focus on God’s goodness. They do not ignore or belittle; neither do they give undue attention to life’s troubles. Rather they embrace them, and put them in perspective.
So this evening’s prayer is something like this:
Father God, I’m feeling really out of my depth trying to get this website sorted out. It’s complicated and confusing and makes me painfully aware of my vulnerability. Please can you help me. Give me a sense of doing this for your sake. Because you are good and you have brought me this far. Thank you.