stories of our life together on the road home
Lament: A Place of Healing
Like many people, the home I was raised in was what I knew as normal, even if it was far from healthy. My parents are the children of Albanian immigrants, their marriage being arranged for them. Unfortunately, this meant that abuse was very prevalent in my home – and overlooked, accepted, and excused. My siblings, mom, and I were very isolated growing up. And we were very afraid that things would be made worse for us if the abuse was made known.
Because of this, I hardly knew I could have an opinion, much less communicate to someone that I was hurting. I was 20 years old when I built up the nerve to call the police on my dad. After he was arrested for domestic violence, someone invited me to church for the first time, and I gave my life to Christ. At that point, my life was marked by sincere devotion and childish optimism as I struggled with what independence looked like as an adult with a newfound faith. I knew I was experiencing a lot of pain, but I didn’t know what I could do about it. As soon as I remembered something hard I would distract myself by thinking of the goodness of God, people suffering around the world who don’t know the Lord, worship music, or a number of other noble things. I couldn’t help but struggle with anger. I would feel extremely hurt by things people would say and felt as though no one could understand me, not much less love me. I could not sit a moment with my past. I was very broken. I was very alone.
My struggles did not relent. Five years after I had begun walking with the Lord, my brother took his own life. During this time I started to experience two different kinds of grief: I was grieving for my brother and grieving because of our shared past. I could no longer ignore my life. When I reflected on his childhood, how I had seen him beaten, insecure, and struggle into adulthood, I felt like I was more compassionate than God. How could someone who has had such a hard life have also had such a hard death? This question was like an irritation.
I began my counseling journey, where I was introduced to true lament. I could no longer push things down even though I tried very hard. My past continued to creep out of the corners from which it was hiding, as if everything I struggled with was highlighted or put right in front of me. I was reliving moments of my old life at every turn. I had to learn how to grieve. If my life was a messy room, counseling was putting things into piles so I could see them more clearly. I started to lament when I looked at the “piles” and, for the first time, allowed myself to be sad about my life instead of stuffing the feelings down. Not only was I sad about my past, but also of how the past affected my present.
In this season, I had to live with bad dreams and moments throughout my day where my mind was playing my life like a movie in my head. In my depression and anxiety, my repeated prayer was simply, “God, why was it like this?” I couldn’t distract myself anymore with how good God was because there were times when I felt angry with God for all that had happened. Sometimes I felt as though God had ‘done this to me.’ Sometimes my journal just said things like, “God, I’m not okay.” I stopped ignoring the hurt. I shared my burdens with a few friends. Having others speak into my life and pray for me gave me affirmation that some of the things that had hurt me were wrong. I was finally learning how to communicate to someone that I was hurting. And eventually, to approach God with honest lament about my pain as well.
There were many times where I felt guilty for talking to God the way that I did. But scripture teaches us that it’s okay to lament. If we could understand our pain and suffering, then maybe there wouldn’t be a need to lament. However, there is not always a direct relationship between our sins and our suffering. Sometimes our pain is just a mystery and we will not understand why our circumstances turned out the way they did. One of my favorite books of the Bible is Job. Job is a righteous man who experiences a great deal of suffering within a very short amount of time. His life completely changes in one night. After all of his loss and suffering, and 7 days of sitting in silence, Job begins cursing his own life. The whole book is filled with a poetic monologue between Job and his friends in which he struggles physically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Job puts God on trial over and over again in his pain, and yet scripture says that in doing all of this Job did not sin. None of this meant Job was without faith. In fact, Job says, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face” (Job 13:15). Job is crying out in pain, but not defiance.
Over time my prayers went from short utterings to speaking about specific things that happened and how they made me feel. I asked God where he was throughout my life. Even as I write this what comes to my mind is a passage of scripture that I have thought about a great deal over the past few years, and from it, Martha’s words to Jesus that became my own, “Lord, if you had only been here my brother would not have died.” I have spoken those words to God many times. Or I would ask things like, ‘If you saw me, why didn’t you protect us growing up?’ or ‘Why did I grow up in this family?’ I prayed he would help me to understand. I prayed he would remind me of His character. I did not withhold any grief and I would tell myself that it was okay that this was hard. It was okay to be depressed and give it to God; it was okay to experience anxiety. God never revealed to me why things happened the way they did but He comforted me. I would open God’s word and see stories of people who also had broken lives and that made me feel less alone. Throughout this season, I can honestly say that I saw that God loved me more than I could have ever imagined.
Openly speaking to God about things that were on my heart allowed me the opportunity to actually find out what God says about the subjects of my prayers. Lament was like a tool I could use to inquire of God. When I was ignoring my pain, my understanding of what God said about my circumstances was mostly assumed. I wasn’t sitting with my story long enough to even question what God would say about the things that had happened in my life. But when I wrestled with God in my prayers by honestly telling him all that I was processing, he met me there. He showed me that Jesus himself experienced abuse so that I might experience adoption into the family of God. Acknowledging my past also led to real transformation in my heart. I remember after one particular therapy session, I was praying about a memory I shared with my therapist, and for the first time I really prayed and desired that my dad would repent of his sin and come to know the Lord. I believe God was giving me the grace to begin to forgive after recognizing that there were things in my life that needed forgiveness.
Lament did not crush me or break my fellowship with God; It has been a place of healing and transformation because it drew me nearer to the God who loves me.
Diana Biberaj has been a member of Sojourn East since 2020. She is currently a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and loves fairy stories, walks in the park, and heart to hearts over good food.