“All Alone! Whether you like it or not, alone will be something you'll be quite a lot.” While unconventional, Dr. Seuss may be one of my favorite theologians. In his own characteristic lightheartedness, he brings the gentle reminders of social need. More importantly, he brings attention that there is a place for everyone to belong, regardless of our insecurities.
An interesting shift is unfolding in our present generation through the censored life we create in the pictures of Facebook and Instagram. The beautiful family photos of perfectly placed hands around the pregnancy bump and priceless medals and certificates that adorn our children at the end of the school year are important memories we share with those we love. Missing are the pictures of the tears of agony when infertility is the story or the tantrums we endured as our children struggled to learn new math concepts. Those pictures are considered unpostable. We’d much rather post the mountain view sunrise. We don’t post the pictures of the pain we endured, and the grit it took to experience the triumph.
I am just as guilty of overcoming the fits of rage to get my young children dressed and out the door for church while smiling big as we enter the doors to hug my friends and tell them, “All is well.” Yet, in this censorship, we undercut the very core of who we are called to be as a community of faith. Sharing the victories is only half of the story. When we fail to share our defeat, misgivings, and emotional wounds, we isolate those who are searching for hope. When only half the story is told, we unwittingly broadcast that those in the midst of struggle and defeat have no place here. This church is only for those who have enough faith to be victorious. Those whose burdens are the heaviest, walk away discouraged because they don’t fit the picture of perfection. Moreover, we isolate ourselves because when the tears come—and they will—we dare not reach out and shatter the image we’ve created. The loneliest game of all is the game we play against ourselves.
This misconception of social expectation has even infiltrated our prayers to a point that we’ve become misguided. Perhaps the point is not to pray the pain away, but to pray for the endurance to walk through it knowing our character is shaped through process and our testimony is a beacon of hope for someone else’s testimony unfolding.
The biblical paradigm does not share the censorship our church culture has created. In fact, the examples within the biblical texts are quite the opposite. Even for the greatest of leaders, attention is drawn to their shortcomings and imperfections. Likewise, the Psalms present an entire collection of prayers in the form of lament. They are used to express the rawness of human emotion in the midst of the struggles that produced them. While Western culture typically teaches that sorrow, grief, and intense anger have no place in public, the lament psalms teach something contrary to this perspective. In contrast, Israel uses the lament psalms as a means to create memories of the desperate cry for God to move on their behalf. Within the cultural background of Psalms, modern readers must maintain the parameter that these prayers were regularly set to music with the intention of the full community sharing in the prayer and thus sharing the experience.
Prayer is often a direct response to an experience, either good or bad. Through the lament psalms, we learn a means of prayer that expresses pain to God while affirming trust in His sovereignty. These laments give structure and a means for voicing grief in such a way that still recognizes hope in God and moves the worshiper from hurt to joy. They allow the worshiper to give an honest reflection of pain. Within the book of Psalms, we find the laments as a “valid biblical response to God in prayer from the depths of our humanity.” In this type of prayer, the emotional crisis is articulated with petition for God to intervene while also affirming trust in God’s sovereignty, even if no immediate action occurs.
For Israel, the Psalms are used within the context of worship. There are prayers of desperation, hope, and praise that were preserved within the community of faith to guide them in worship. For modern believers, these prayers remind us of the importance of prayer and offer examples of portraying our human emotions to God. While there are occasional examples of prayers used individually, these prayers were largely poetic expressions used by the entire community within the Temple for public worship.
The language of Psalms calls on readers to experience the emotions of others. When I reflect on the use of Psalms and how it impacts the modern Church, I am reminded of Paul’s words in Romans: “Rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.” The ability to lament and grieve is such an imperative aspect of our journey. As Pentecostals, we celebrate victory and are quick to celebrate God’s provision. In my experience, we are not as vocal in expressing the pain of waiting. We do not readily express our anger or confusion within the context of the worshiping community. Yet, in the very midst of crisis and rawness, is the ability for the Church to rally and allow the sufferer to find a place of hope. Moreover, in the context of expression, others have the ability to share in the experience alongside their fellow brother/sister.
Yet, the greatest joy of the lament is the confidence that it restores. Though I may not see God’s hand in my present, I am assured of my hope that He will move. This is a vital prayer for our modern communities of faith. Not only does it bring confidence for the believer, but by vocalizing the full spectrum of our story and entire range of emotions that we experience throughout our struggles and faith, it brings hope. Those silently experiencing the same wounds have an opportunity to see God hasn’t left them. He’s brought them into a community that will mourn with them, and (when the time comes) celebrate the victory of overcoming. The language of faith is experience. Within the Psalms, the “human words to God become the revealing Word of God.”
 Dr. Seuss. Oh the Places You’ll Go.
 Dennis Bratcher. “Patterns for Life: Structure, Genre, and Theology in Psalms,” The Voice. 2018. http://www.crivoice.org/psalmgenre.html.
 Romans 12:15.
 Gerald Wilson. “The Shape of the Book of Psalms.” Interpretation. 46 (1992): 129-142.
Dr. Adrian Hinkle currently serves as the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Southwestern Christian University. Dr. Hinkle arrived at SCU in 2004 where she served as the first female to teach Theology at an IPHC higher education institution. Before joining Southwestern, Dr. Hinkle served the IPHC through her work as an assistant at the Global Ministry Center and was involved as an assistant youth pastor in the Heartland Conference. Since joining SCU, Dr. Hinkle has been involved in several leadership roles including Department Chair for the Christian Studies Department (2008-2014), Academic Dean for the School of Professional Studies (2011-2017), and Dean of the Graduate Studies program (2014-2016). Dr. Hinkle also serves as a reviewer with the Higher Learning Commission and is an active member of the Society for Pentecostal Studies.
An alumna of SCU with a BS in Biblical Studies, Dr. Hinkle went on to earn a Master of Arts in Theology from Southern Nazarene University. She then completed additional graduate work through the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary before completing her Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Wales, Trinity St. David in 2014.