Hope and Lament in Seasons of Heartache

man in gray shirt walking on pathway

How do we delight in the face of suffering? When we walk through seasons of heartache— including seasons of difficulty in our marriages— how do we maintain a posture of delight?

Here’s the bottom line: as Christians, our delight— even our faith—isn’t sustained by us.

In my darkest hour, when suffering persists and pain swells, God is still good and faithful. Though my feelings waver and my strength wanes, “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

In Christian circles, we sometimes believe the lie that “good Christians” smile and nod and keep on keeping on in the midst of suffering. Or worse: we believe that God won’t give us more than we can handle.

These sentiments are untrue and unbiblical. They force us to pretend. They build walls of isolation and loneliness into the very fibers of our hearts. 

We are called to delight, and “rejoice always,” as Paul says (Phil. 4:4)— but this is deeply different from shallow feelings of forced happiness. 

Look to the Psalms

Read the Psalms and you’ll quickly see that lament and praise go hand in hand. 

Nearly half of the poems are ones of lament. The psalmist repeatedly asks, “Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Psalm 42:5a) 

They express pain, confusion, and anger at what is happening in the world or to us. They also function as pleas for God to intervene. According to Bible Project, “Lament is an appropriate response to the evil we see in the world.”

On the other hand, more than half the psalms are joyful and celebrate what’s good in the world. They declare who God is and what He’s done. In fact, the lament often precedes a call to hope in God. So while “the psalms teach us not to ignore the pain and suffering in our lives,” they don’t keep our focus there (The Bible Project). 

All marriages have seasons of difficulty— it might look different from marriage to marriage, but trials are inevitable. So what does it look like to lament and praise? How can we be “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6:10)?

First— evaluate your hope

I wish I could promise you that whatever you’re walking through right now would end quickly— that your marriage would be wholly restored, your broken relationships reconciled, the illness ravaging your loved one remedied. And we believe and pray that God will work his healing hand on our hearts and bodies in this lifetime.

And yet.

Even if he doesn’t deliver us in the way we’re hoping he will, who God is doesn’t change.

When my hope is hung on my circumstances, I’m doomed. This world and its people are broken and messy— myself included. 

But Christian: our hope isn’t hung on our circumstances. Because of the work of Jesus on the cross, our hope is set on something greater than anything in this life— an “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1: 4).  

This is why we can delight in the face of suffering. It’s not about mustering up false happiness— it’s about remembering that “though we have been grieved by various trials,” we will soon inherit eternal life.

So we wait for all to be restored and reconciled. We hope in the One who holds it all together— the One who promises us something greater. 

Paul encourages us in Romans 8 to hang on. This man who suffered so much writes: 

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). 

This is all temporary. This suffering, this longing in our hearts for restoration— one day, in the light of His glory and grace, it will seem as nothing to us.

Second— lament

When we walk through dark hours in our marriage, or through seasons of suffering, we must acknowledge the brokenness. Pretending things are fine doesn’t make the pain disappear. It just buries it and increases the loneliness we’re already walking in. 

Christ is made great in our weakness, his power perfected in it (2 Corinthians 12:9). When we ignore the suffering around us or bury the hurt in us we relinquish an opportunity to call out to God— to say, “Do you see this? We need you.” If we don’t acknowledge it, we miss the chance to see God’s redemption in it.

When we cry out to him, he turns his ear to us. He hears us. The God who hung the heavens, who holds the depth of the sea in his hands, sees every tear we cry.

So feel how you feel— and turn to Jesus with those feelings. He cares for you, friend.

Third— walk with others

The final way we can suffer well is to do it in Christian community. 

Now, let’s be clear: tighten the circle. Whatever the source of your suffering— whether within your marriage or from an external circumstance you’re enduring together— tightening the circle maintains your integrity as well as your capacity. Pick a few safe, godly friends who will listen well, lament with you, and point you to Jesus. 

This isn’t done on Facebook. This is done in the trenches of real life, with a few people who have proven themselves to be for you and for your family.

Let the faithful prayers and care of your people sustain you, as Aaron and Hur lifted the hands of Moses when he became weary (Exodus 17:12). We’re not called to walk alone, especially in the face of great suffering. 

In this life, we will have trouble; that is promised. But we take heart because Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). We can acknowledge and walk through seasons of lament. We don’t have to pass over them, pretending all is rosy when, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Rooted deep within us, however, is hope— we sing with the Psalmist,

“My flesh and my heart my fail,

but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:26).

Have you heard of the The 31-Day Pursuit Challenge?

Every marriage begins with passion, purpose, and pursuit, but few stay that way. That’s why we wrote Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit Together, they make what we’re calling the 31-Day Pursuit Challenge. Couples are encouraged take the challenge together. We’re already starting to hear stories of transformed marriages! Are you up for the challenge?

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