Day 15: May 17, 2018: From Lament to Praise.
Psalm 22:22-26: I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. 25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. 26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever!
Recently I watched a film entitled Nefarious: Merchant of Souls. Nefarious is about human trafficking. It features interviews with victims of trafficking in Eastern Europe, Asia, and the United States. Much of the film is lament – as people who have been exploited, used, and abused tell of the horrors they suffered.
Two of the ladies who tell their stories in Nefarious are Helena and Annie. They are both former prostitutes. (The film makes clear that prostitution is not the “career choice” many make it out to be. Rather, the world of prostitution exploits the vulnerabilities which are already present in women and then brutally dehumanizes them). At first both Helena and Annie were able to speak with composure about what they went through. But, as they delved further into their stories, the pain and trauma welled up from within them.
The interviewer asked Helena, “What type of emotions were you feeling during that time?” Her response, as she began to cry was, “Intense fear. Intense fear. Of real rejection, of feeling totally unloved, unwanted, uncared for. I was just totally lost… within myself…” And then she broke down in sobbing over the memories and the pain.
Then the film cuts back to Annie’s story. She says, “So that’s when the heavy, heavy cocaine abuse came in, and I just wanted to disappear. I remember just lighting that pipe and just looking forward to that hit. All of a sudden I just heard my ears ringing really loud. And everything went black. Like my eyes just shut down. My eyes were wide open but went black, and I fell back, and um, I was having a heart attack. The pain in my chest was like… it felt like somebody was stabbing me with a knife in my heart. But I couldn’t see anything, and all I could remember was that there was nothing but blackness around me. And I realized, “Crap, I’m dying… I’m dying.” Then she said, “All I could remember was Jesus. That’s all I could think about was God. And I saw my life literally flash before my eyes. And I called upon his name. I just said, “Jesus, Jesus. I’m… I’m alone. I’m sorry, and come and get me. Save me from myself. I’m sorry. And all I could was say ‘sorry, I ‘m sorry I was a prostitute. I was so ashamed.” And the
ambulance came. They took me in the hospital. And the doctor came over and said, ‘Um, do you know how lucky youare? You have a lot of drugs in your system lady, and you’re allergic to narcotics.’ And he’s like, ‘God’s with you.’ And I knew that, um, Jesus heard my prayer.’”
Then the film returns to Helena, who continued to tell her story: “I was in such despair and desperation. I would really cry out to God, you know. And then one night He appeared to me in a dream. I would go into this beautiful garden, and
sat on the bench was the Lord Jesus. And I would go to him, and we would sit, and we would just talk about… I don’t even know what we spoke about, but he never, ever once condemned me… It was such beauty and such love that
emanated from him. Oh, I was just… well, I fell at his feet… and when I got up he’d say, ‘Helena, I’m waiting for you…’”
Both ladies realized the depth of God’s unconditional love for them. They were afflicted, but as Psalm 22 says, “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him (v. 24). When Helena and Annie cried out to Jesus in their affliction, Jesus heard their cries and delivered them from their suffering. Their lives have been absolutely transformed by God’s amazing grace. Helena is now a wife and mother. Annie started a ministry to share the love of Christ with ladies who are still trapped in prostitution. Both ladies now worship Jesus and are passionate about telling other people about Him.
This is what our God does. He takes cries of lament (Ps. 22:1-21), and He turns them into songs of praise (Ps. 22:22-31) which reverberate out to “the ends of the earth” and the “families of the nations” (v. 27). So, if you are in the middle of lament, do not give up hope. If you are wondering, “How long, O Lord” know that the Lord Jesus hears you just as he heard Helena and Annie. Know that God can and will deliver you according to his will and according to his steadfast love. Further, if you have experienced God’s deliverance, if he has turned your lament into praise, then praise Him! Say with David in the congregation of God’s people: “Fear God! Glorify God! Stand in awe of Him!” Declare the excellencies of Him who brought you out of darkness and into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2)!
Take time now to seek God. This brief prayer can help you get started: “O God, I rejoice in You. You are holy and wonderful and awesome. You do not despise the prayer of the afflicted. You hear their cry and deliver them. Thank you for how you turn cries of lament into songs of praise. Thank you for your unconditional and unbreakable love which you have given us in Jesus Christ. May the ends of the earth come to worship you for your unfailing goodness, O Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”