Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Lament of Jesus

Leslie Basham: Good Friday is called good because of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. Here’s Pastor Mark Vroegop

Pastor Mark Vroegop: Jesus bought the right to make it right. And Good Friday was the day that that purchase began and culminated in His resurrection. Every funeral that we go to, we’re reminded that this thing is not over. He’s coming again, and we’ll be welcomed in the new heaven and new earth where there will be no more sorrow, no more death—and Jesus made all that possible.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Surrender, for April 19, 2019.

We’ve heard all this week about the concept of biblical lament. Joining Nancy in the conversation is Mark Vroegop, lead pastor of College Park Church in Indianapolis. He wrote a book on the subject called Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy. Nancy will tell you later how to get a copy of his book, but first, she’s here to talk with Pastor Vroegop about the significance of this day in history—Good Friday.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Mark, there couldn’t be any more important week in the Church calendar than the one we’re in right now as we consider the passion of Christ, the sufferings of Christ, and then this day. We call it Good Friday, but when it was in the midst of happening, it seemed like anything but good.

Mark: It was a tragedy. I mean, if you’re a disciple, standing at the foot of the cross, your world just collapsed. Your life was not only over, you’re probably going to be killed as well. And everything you’d pinned your hopes on just evaporated right in front of you. I mean, just imagine the swirl of disappointment. It’s anything but good on that Good Friday.

Nancy: And yet, today we call it Good Friday because it was a critical day in God’s eternal plan of redemption that turned to amazing good on what we’re going to celebrate two days from now.

Mark: Yes. And what a difference it looks like when you see Good Friday through Resurrection Sunday.

Nancy: I know that as you’ve counseled as a pastor with people in your congregation who are going through suffering. This is one of the things that helps you give them perspective while they’re on the death side of this equation.

Mark: Yes. I was having a conversation with a family who’s walking through some deep, deep waters with a physical ailment and wondering, How do we answer the questions about God’s goodness and His purposes with people who aren’t followers of Jesus and who could look at their health crisis and say, “How could God be good in this?”

I think Good Friday is a great model. Surely people looked at the death of Christ and said, “There’s nothing good out of this—nothing good.” And then two days later, oh, the world radically changed by virtue of what they could then hope in because of the resurrection of Christ.

So it just matters which perspective you take on the cross—whether it’s on Good Friday or after Easter Sunday.

Nancy: And there could not have been a resurrection apart from the cross. I mean, that sounds like, “Of course!” But how often do we in our own journey want the resurrection side of things but say, “Don’t give me the cross side of things.” And yet, it’s not possible.

Mark: And what a model it became, not only for God’s purposes, but even what it means to follow Jesus today—that life comes through death, that exaltation comes through humility, that hope comes through trusting, not in our ingenuity or our ability to perceive how this all works out. There are big gaps in life where God’s purposes are not evident in the moment but will become plain either in time or in all of eternity.

Nancy: Over the last several days, we’ve been talking about discovering the grace of lament. We’ve looked at some of the psalms. We’ve looked at the book of Lamentations and seen the crying out to the Lord, setting before Him our complaint, our burdens, our concerns the things we don’t understand.

And you’ve written a book called Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy. We’ve been offering that to our listeners this week who may be going through lament themselves or a loved one is going through a season of lament. And nowhere do we see that progression lived out more beautifully than in the life of our Savior as He was dying on that Friday that we now call Good Friday.

As we look at the gospel accounts of Christ’s suffering, His death on the cross, one of the amazing things is that He was praying as He was dying. He was praying the words of the Old Testament Scriptures.

Mark: Yes, praying Psalm 22 at the apex of the worst moment of His earthly life, not only experiencing death but the forsakenness of the Father.

Nancy: We want to look at that psalm—just take an overview of it over these next moments. But if you’re in a place where you can open to your Bible, I want to encourage you to do that. Or, if not, to take some time today to read through Psalm 22. This is a psalm of lament.

Our Savior is a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. In fact, our sorrow and our grief takes on such different perspective when we realize that Christ became a Man of Sorrows for us.

I think one of the first things that stands out to me, Mark, as I look at this psalm and realize it’s what Jesus, in part, quoted on the cross (not just quoting it, but praying it to His Father in heaven), you see that Christ really was a man, that there’s the humanity of Christ here. He didn’t go through this and just bulldoze His way through it in a way that we can’t. He did this as a human. What does that say for us?

Mark: Well, it’s so incredibly meaningful and comforting. Meaningful because Jesus is a Man of Sorrows. He’s acquainted with grief. So here is the God-Man, the Son of God who feels the weight of the brokenness of humanity. God feels everything that’s wrong with the world. And to think that He comes and enters into that mess in order to redeem us is just a remarkable reality of His love and compassion and His willingness to go the distance for us.

But it also says something really meaningful about His ability to understand and sympathize with us even in our own experience. He not only goes the distance to help us in our mess but even now still helps us in our mess. As the book of Hebrews says, to call upon Him because He’s a sympathetic High Priest so we can receive mercy and grace in our time of need.

So I never need to wonder, Does Jesus understand? Not only does He understand, but He understands it in a way that I don’t understand. And that gives a lot of hope as we consider the extent which Christ would go to purchase our redemption.

Nancy: There’s really not any pain we can bear, any sorrow or any dark cloud that can hover over us that Christ has not in some deep way experienced Himself. He has been there, which means He’s drawn near to us, and that means we can draw near to Him in our sorrow.

Mark: Yes. He’s modeled what it means to walk on earth. He’s also modeled what it means to suffer even with difficult and dark questions, like, “Why are You so far from saving me?” It’s a significant thing to be able to pray, and yet here’s Jesus who’s walking the gauntlet of the full cup, the full negative effects of our broken humanity.

Nancy: And there on the cross, we know from the gospel accounts, that Jesus was praying to His Father in heaven. A part of the prayer He prayed takes us back to Psalm 22, a Messianic Psalm that is written about the sufferings of Christ.

Now, we don’t know that He prayed this entire psalm, because it’s a long one, but we know He prayed portions of it. So, certainly, He was meditating on this passage. He was familiar with it. It helped to shape His prayer there on the cross, which gives us a model of how to pray when we don’t know what to pray when we just say, “I don’t have words.” We can get those from Scripture.

Mark: Yes. That’s one of the things that I found to be particularly helpful and greatly encouraging is that when I don’t know what to pray, I can pray the Bible, and even the words in the Bible that I might not feel comfortable praying on my own. They’re in the Bible for a reason, and here the Savior quotes a very important but a very heartfelt and difficult statement within the Psalms. And that’s really meaningful.

Nancy: You’ve talked about the stages and steps of lament, and you see all of those here in Psalm 22. It’s a fairly long psalm, so we’re not going to walk through the whole passage, but the first step we talked about a few days ago is turning to God in prayer. In our suffering, in our sorrow, in inexplicable grief, for which we have mostly questions and few answers, turn to God in prayer. And that’s exactly what we see Jesus doing from the first verse of this psalm.

Mark: Yes. He just cries out, and He quotes the first verse of Psalm 22 out of a sense of desperation. That’s what God invites us to do, to be the kind of people who aren’t guilty of silence or avoidance, but to tell God what it is that we’re feeling, quote the Scriptures that fit with the difficulties within our soul. It’s what Jesus did on the cross.

Nancy: The fact that He starts out by saying, “My God, My God.” The fact that He prays in that moment, that He turns His voice toward God is a step of faith because He’s going to say that He feels as if God has abandoned Him, but He still prays to God, even when He doesn’t feel that God is hearing or answering His prayers in that moment.

Mark: That’s the great irony, isn’t it? It’s also the great hope that when we feel as though God is not doing what we would want God to do, we’re still to talk to God about it. And that’s what lament is: Talking to God about the gaps between where we are and where we’d like to be, or the gaps between what God’s character is like and what we’re actually experiencing. That’s where lament wrestles with that, and it’s what Jesus does on the cross.

Nancy: We see Him also taking that second step of lament, the lifting up our complaint to the Lord—not denying it, not pretending like it’s not happening—but being gut-level honest about what our circumstances are and how we feel about those.

Could you read a few verses to us from Psalm 22 that illustrate that?

Mark: Yes. It says:

“Why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest” (vv. 1–2).

So there are multiple complaints in there about, “God, You’ve forsaken me. You’re not near me. You’re not hearing my words.”

Nancy: Look down at verse 12.

“Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me,like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint” (vv. 12–13).

I mean, he’s describing even the opposition and the antagonism he’s experiencing, the physical consequences. He’s being really honest about this.

Mark: He is, and there’s shame that’s involved. He’s being stared at. There’s a company around him. The biggest part of the nature of the suffering is not only what he’s experiencing, but also the dishonor that comes from other people almost throwing his trust in God in his face. And that’s what pain of any kind does.

It challenges: “So you believe in God? What about this?” And lament helps navigate that minefield of doubt and despair and disbelief.

Nancy: So he turns in prayer to God. He lifts up his complaint to God. And then he also does that third step of lament, which is to ask boldly. Where do you see that in this psalm?

Mark: Yes he does. In verse 19:

“But you, O Lord, do not be far off!O you my help, come quickly to my aid!”

It’s just so interesting that he, just a moment earlier in the psalm is saying that God isn’t helping him. And now he says, “O you who are my help.”

It just fits so well with the mix of emotions when we’re walking through season of difficulty.

He says, “Deliver my soul from the sword. Save me from the mouth of the lion!”

And then even speaking confidently, “You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!”

So there’s just this confidence in God’s ability to deliver him.

Nancy: Even before he sees that happen.

Mark: Correct. And that’s the beauty of lament, which is, by definition, a faith step.

Nancy: And that asking boldly, in our process of lament, ultimately has to turn to trust in the promises of God even before we see the outcome.

And we see Jesus taking that step as well, expressing faith that God’s character is good and that His eternal purposes are going to be fulfilled. How do we see that in this psalm of lament?

Mark: I love the word “yet” that appears in both verse 3 and verse 9. All laments have some sort of pivot to them with words like “but,” “or,” “therefore,” “even so.” And here it is in the contrast between:

“God, you feel like You’ve forsaken me. I cry out to You,” (v. 1) and “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In You our fathers trusted; they trusted, and You delivered them” (vv. 3–4).

So he’s pulling on God’s trustworthiness.

“To you they cried and were rescued;in you they trusted and were not put to shame” (v. 5).

So he’s identifying, “What’s happening to me doesn’t fit what I know to be true about You.”

And then in verse 9, “Yet you are he who took me from my mother’s womb; you made me trust you at my mother's breasts. On you was I cast from my birth . . . you have been my God from my mother’s womb” (vv. 9–10).

So there’s this reality that the psalmist is trusting in God despite what he sees with his eyes. And that’s what all lament does. It calls us to call upon the truths that we know are true, despite what I feel right now.

That’s what’s happening in Jesus as He says to God, “Why have You forsaken Me?” God was not going to ultimately forsake Him, but in that moment, all the grief of His humanity would have indicated, “No, You’ve been forsaken.” And so He talks to God about it.

Nancy: And as you get to the latter part of this psalm, it just begs you to see Sunday is coming! Resurrection is coming! And beyond that, the victory of Christ over sin and Satan and the redeeming grace of Christ. So He begins to turn to praise.

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;in the midst of the congregation I will praise you” (v. 22).

“He has not hidden his face from him. He has heard, when he cried to him” (v. 24).

“From you comes my praise in the great congregation” (v. 25).

“All the ends of the earth shall rememberand turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nationsshall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations” (vv. 27–28).

It’s like He’s broadening His view and His vision from His own pain, His own suffering. He’s lifted His eyes up to His Father and surrendering Himself to His Father’s kingdom, eternal purposes. He’s saying, “This is not just about Me. This is about what God intends to do with My suffering to bring redemption to the whole wide world.” How amazing is that?

Mark: Yes. It’s remarkable, and isn’t that what should happen, because suffering can make us so myopic. We think, My pain is the only pain, or this suffering is not going to have good purposes to it.” And the psalmist here pulls the lens back and out to be able to see the bigger works of what God is doing.

And that, from a lament standpoint, is what this language is designed to do. It’s meant to pull you out of the immediate reality of the suffering that you’re feeling in order to help you re-anchor your heart in truths that you know are true but, for the moment, may not feel as true as what they need to be.

Nancy: Yes. I love the end of this psalm where he broadens, not just to the nations, but to future generations, which is why we’re sitting here having this conversation today.

“Posterity [future generations] shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it” (v. 30–31).

And, of course, we know that in the Greek version of this Old Testament we have the same word that Jesus says on the cross, “It is finished.” God has finished it. He has done it. On the cross, Jesus finished the work that God gave Him to do. He said, “It’s finished.” Sin and Satan have been overcome because He had made that sacrifice.

And so, as we look at our suffering, we realize that there is a day when, because of Christ, our suffering will be finished. This suffering is not the end of the story.

Mark: Yes. Jesus bought the right to make it right. And Good Friday was the day that that purchase began and culminated in His resurrection to remind us that every funeral that we go to, and every loved one that we say goodbye to with tears because of their death, we’re reminded that this thing is not over.

He’s coming again! Graves are going to be opened, the dead are going to rise, and we’ll be welcomed in the new heaven and new earth where there will be no more sorrow, no more feeling forsaken, no more death. And Jesus, on Good Friday and through the Easter weekend, made all that hope possible.

Nancy: And so, as we lament, still in the here and now, the not-yet-finished work of God’s redeeming of this world, we still lament, but we lament with hope.

And I’m so thankful, Mark, that you’ve written a book to help us know how to lament. We’ve just seen a picture of that in Jesus’ lament on Good Friday, Psalm 22. Your book is called Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament.

I know it’s been a real encouraging word to my own heart as I think about friends that I have who are in the journey of lament right now, and as I look back on some of my own journey of lament in the past, and undoubtedly yet to come.

So we are making that book available to any listener today who makes a donation of any amount to help us continue the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. You can make that donation by going to our website, ReviveOurHearts.com. You can give us a call at 1–800–569–5959.

And when you make your donation, be sure and ask for a copy of Pastor Mark’s book on lament.

Now, Mark, as we have been talking about Jesus and His suffering on the cross and that horrendous Friday that we now, appropriately, call Good Friday, I’m just reminded of how the sufferings of Christ were for us, that they were made necessary because of our sin.

And I’m thinking that there may be many listening to our conversation today who have never really understood why Good Friday, why the cross of Christ. And I wonder if you would just take a minute or two to tell us the gospel, tell us the story of why Christ died and how His suffering on the cross can mean life for us.

Mark: The message of the Bible is simply this: That God is holy. He’s righteous. And I’m not. I’m a sinner. I’m a person who’s done things that are wrong, internally and externally. And the Bible tells us that that’s the condition of every single human being who’s ever lived on planet earth. So God is holy, and I’m not.

And the Bible says that Jesus saves. The means by which God provided the forgiveness of sins and make that possible is by the atonement of Jesus. So that I can look to Him for His sacrifice and His death, and God counts that to me if I but put my trust in Him.

So God’s holy. I’m not. Jesus saves. And then Christ is my life. The reason that Jesus comes is to save us from our sins so that we can then live in a way that fits with who He is and what He intended for us. And by Christ being our life, the full fulfillment of what God intends for us to be has been inaugurated for those who put their hope and trust in Christ.

And that’s why Good Friday is really, really good because Jesus saved me from myself and gave me a new life. And that’s the good news of the Bible. It’s called the gospel.

Nancy: That is good news. And I just believe, Mark, that there’s some listening to this conversation right now for whom today could be the day of them experiencing the life that Jesus came to give.

It’s one thing to know it, to maybe celebrate it at your church, to talk about it, to go through the Good Friday and Easter celebrations, but it’s no good at all if you haven’t experienced that yourself.

And I just wonder, Mark, if you might pray right now for someone that God’s speaking to, the Holy Spirit is working in their heart, drawing them to Christ, and to pray that today might be for them a truly Good Friday as they place their hope in Christ.

Mark: Father, we thank You that You work through all sorts of means, and You are drawing people to Yourself because You love people, and You want them to be saved from their sins and from the brokenness that rages within their souls.

And so, Lord, I pray today for those today who are feeling the tug on their heart, who are realizing that they need something more than their activity, their work, their attempt to make themselves righteous.

I pray that even in this very moment that there might be people who would confess Christ as Lord, who would give up and say, “Lord, I’m done trusting in me. I’m done putting my hope in my ability. And instead, I’m going to believe in Jesus. I’m going to have Him be my Savior and Lord.”

And so we pray that that would happen today, that people would be birthed into Your kingdom and a beautiful transformation would take place in their souls because they met the resurrected King who saves them from their sins and gives them a new life. And we pray that You would do that in Jesus’ name, amen.

Nancy: Amen.

I’d like to invite you, if you have placed your trust in Christ today to save you, or if it’s something that God is speaking to you about and you’re just not sure that you’re there yet, but you want to be, I’d invite you to write to us at info@ReviveOurHearts.com. That’s an email address. Someone will receive that and respond to you.

We’d love to send you a free resource to help you take the next step in your relationship with Christ. We’d love to hear from you today and hear how God has used the conversation to bring you to place your faith in Jesus Christ.

Mark, I want to thank you so much for walking us through this journey of lament and for pointing us to Christ in this discussion this week.

Mark: It’s been a pleasure to be with you, Nancy. It’s been great to talk about things that are so important, so helpful, and so Christ-centered.

Leslie: Once again, you can find information about how to get Pastor Mark’s book, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, atReviveOurHearts.com.

In the Old Testament, we read about Israelites carried away into captivity. They wondered, How can we sing God’s songs in a hostile land? That question has a lot of implications for us today. Nancy will help us learn from their example starting Monday. Please be back next week for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to find new life in the resurrected Savior. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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