As I have spoken with those finishing middle school and high school seniors, there has been so much sadness. There has almost been some kind of competition on who has lost the most. I don’t get to do this… well I am not getting to do that. We are all losing in this situation. Some more than others. But it’s important for us to sit in the pain and hardness of it all. So many seniors that I have spoken to realize they just need to feel the loss and grieve it. When teenagers are sad or angry, parents often rush in to fix it, to give them something or do something to cheer them up. What if we just accepted, that we can’t make this up to them. And that’s ok. What they have lost is a celebration that is so special to this time in life. The end of senior year cannot be replaced. If we try to fix or take away the pain, it teaches our teenage friends or children that emotions like anger and sadness need to be numbed or fixed, instead of processed and felt. We don’t want our teenagers to feel like they aren’t equipped to deal with hard things. What if we leaned in and engaged with those negative feelings?
Let us show our seniors and other teenagers struggling how to lament. Let them cry, be frustrated, be sad. As we have prayed through Psalm 91 as a church the past few months, I am reminded how Scripture – especially the Psalms – invites us to give voice to the disappointment we feel and the pain deep inside through prayer.
One of the worst things we can do to a person who is grieving is to meet their pain with all the reasons they ought to be grateful, all the reasons that they shouldn’t feel the way they feel. God doesn’t do that. He invites us to bring our hearts to him, broken and hurting, battered and bruised, and to be honest with Him about what is going on inside of us.
We often hesitate to lament because we don’t want to be the complainer or act like a child whining to God. But actually, lament is holy confrontational and leads to trust and love in our relationship with God. God invites lament – there is a book called Lamentations for good reason. There is an open invitation from God to offer up prayers of lament to foster a more intimate relationship with him. It deepens our friendship with Christ. Even though He knows what we are thinking, He longs for us to tell Him what we are struggling with, and how it is hard to trust right now. Open honest communication is what we long for in any relationship, and Jesus doesn’t want it any different. Counselor Julie Sparkman often says that the Psalms of lament begin with anguish, “GOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING????” through which the Holy Spirit moves us into curiosity, “God, what are you doing?” I love that. God can soften our hearts towards Him as we spend time with him in quiet time and prayer.
Every part of Scripture reminds us that God resurrects what was dead and redeems what was lost. As I think about all that has been lost, especially for 5th, 8th, and 12th graders, it seems that we won’t be able to get what was taken away. But God promises that he redeems all things. Considering all the suffering that is going on in the world right now, as I have spoken with seniors some have felt a little ashamed to be down about missing graduation festivities or having them not be as they hoped. While there’s no shame in the disappointment, the awareness is redemptive itself. God is using this situation (among other things) to move seniors from the self-centeredness of childhood to a mature concern for what others are going through. If God can redeem Christ’s crucifixion on the cross, He can redeem anything!