Praying through suffering
Updated: Nov 7, 2021
"Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy." Psalm 130:1-2
"By His light I walked through darkness." Job 29:3
A quick read through a few psalms and something might stand out to you; a majority of the psalms are psalms of lament.
They are written by hurting and mourning people, crying out to God in the midst of their suffering. A lot of our prayer lives are rooted in praise and thanksgiving, but we cannot forget that part of the human experience while waiting for Jesus to return includes suffering.
We can't forget it as we navigate our daily lives, and we can't forget how it impacts our prayer lives.
Some scholars and theologians refer to time periods of suffering as “the dark night of the soul.” One book I recently read included a man’s life story, and he talked about how he walked through his own “dark night of the soul.” For him, this was a season of deep, dehibilitating depression.
In that season, he felt that the only way out was through.
Maybe you have been through your own “dark night of the soul.”
How did you get through it? If you’re in a season of suffering right now, how will you get through it?
Recently, I was reading Job and his words in his season of suffering. While he was frustrated and disillusioned in many ways, he reflected on the “better days” and the things of his life that felt like they were stolen from him. One phrase that stood out to me from Job’s reflections was this:
“By His light I walked through darkness.”
There is a massive section of self-help books at any bookstore you visit because we have issues. It’s not a secret, and we’re looking for help. We are looking for a guide, someone to walk us through the uncertain seasons, to help us navigate the difficult terrain of life. I often wonder how people who don’t know Jesus get through they’re own seasons of suffering, because I cannot imagine walking through pain and suffering without Him.
I think our world is often trying to fabricate our own light. If we could just read enough self-help books, if we could just understand the situation more, if we could just power through and persevere in our own self-made strength–then we would finally make it through!
I agree with the sentiment from the book I read that sometimes, in suffering, the only way out is through. But what I’ve found is that I cannot create my own light.
The light that overcomes darkness again and again is Jesus, and the meeting place where we are equipped to walk through to the other side of pain and suffering is prayer.
In prayer, we might mourn. We might lament. We might cry out to God in frustration.
None of these things are new to God or intimidating to Him. David wrote many psalms of Lament and was titled “a man after God’s own heart.”
When we go to God in our mourning and in our suffering, we can still be after God's own heart too. We’re after His perspective and the communion we experience with Him is what allows us to be faithful travelers through suffering, who obediently take one step at a time, knowing that we can’t create light, but through prayer and communion with Him we can bring it on our journey through with us.
And on the other side, we can proudly proclaim, “By His light I walked through darkness” to the world watching, looking for help.
-How do you approach God in your suffering? Does it change your prayer life at all?
-How honest is your prayer life? Why or why not?
-Think of a time when you experienced God walking through suffering with you or with someone you know. How did this experience impact you? What thoughts, emotions, or questions do you have?
Ask God to highlight moments of suffering or even small disappointments in your life this week and try to bring each before Him in prayer.
Lord help us to have the courage to cry out to you out of the depths this week and the faith to believe your ears attentive to hear our voice. Walk with us through darkness, and let us be reminded of and encouraged by your light–one that we don't have to supply ourselves but can fully trust and rely on. Amen.