Sunshine Christianity & Forbidden Lament

“I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me.  I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched; My eyes fail while I wait for my God.” Psalm 69:2-3 [NASB]

Scott has had the misfortune of being chided a couple of times recently for answering the question, “How are you?” in a way that did not reflect the joy the person asking the question expected to hear from him.   As a result we have a running joke that some day he will answer with his best Jack Nicholson impersonation, “You can’t handle the truth!”

All joking aside, though, the truth is many people refuse to handle the truth.  Specifically the truth that sometimes suffering does not miraculously resolve and some sorrows will linger until Christ returns or we go Home.

A while ago I came across the phrase “sunshine Christianity” in an article about the prosperity gospel movement.  I wish I could find the article that referenced it to give proper credit, but I can’t.  The phrase stuck with me, though, as a clever encapsulated description of a phenomenon I am becoming increasingly aware of.

Sunshine Christianity makes no distinction between happiness and joy, and sets them as both the goal and mark of Christianity.  We are to be guided by the pursuit of joy, constantly striving for and consciously choosing that which makes us happy.  That same happiness is then the mark and measure of our faith.  Bolstered by a belief that God will not allow prolonged suffering, it sets time limits on brokenness and sorrow and will not tolerate their lingering.  The broken and sorrowful are admonished to “choose joy,” with the clear implication that any expression other than a joyous one reflects failed faith.  Sunshine Christianity wrongly presumes sorrow and struggle must be eradicated and replaced with happiness.  It fails to realize our capacity for joy in the midst of sorrow.

Tragically, Sunshine Christianity effectively eliminates a tremendously valuable component of worship displayed throughout scripture.  It banishes lament.  The laments contained in scripture are profound and powerful examples of faith.  They have been used mightily by God throughout the centuries to inspire and spur on countless weary and battle worn saints.  Christ Himself modeled lament in the presence of His disciples as He cried out to God the Father in the garden of Gethsemane.

The laments in scripture typically include three main components.  They begin with a detailed account of the sorrows of the lamenter followed by an acknowledgment of the character and nature of God and conclude with a declaration of trust in and praise to God.

“When I wept in my soul with fasting, It became my reproach.  When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them.  Those who sit in the gate talk about me, And I [am] the song of the drunkards.  But as for me, my prayer is to You, O LORD, at an acceptable time; O God, in the greatness of Your lovingkindness, Answer me with Your saving truth. …  Answer me, O LORD, for Your lovingkindness is good; According to the greatness of Your compassion, turn to me, …  But I am afflicted and in pain; May Your salvation, O God, set me [securely] on high.  I will praise the name of God with song And magnify Him with thanksgiving.  And it will please the LORD better than an ox [Or] a young bull with horns and hoofs.  The humble have seen [it and] are glad; You who seek God, let your heart revive.” Psalm 69:10-13, 16, 29-32 NASB]

The detailed expression of sorrows and distresses at the beginning of the lament is no less appropriate or God honoring than the expression of trust or praise at the conclusion.  To the contrary, the expression of trust and praise to God at the conclusion is actually magnified by the degree of sorrow and distress presented at the beginning.

Through sharing our struggles, sorrow, distress, anguish and heartache we are best able to testify of God’s sufficient grace, lovingkindness, mercy and sustaining power.  Sharing struggles not only allows us to shoulder one another’s burdens, but it also allows us to glorify God together as we see His hand in preserving and sustaining through trial and tribulation.

Sunshine Christianity wrongly robs us of this experience, but perhaps that is by design.  Perhaps Sunshine Christianity is a double edged sword precisely designed and wielded by the adversary to both shame the sorrowful into silence and isolation, and simultaneously prevent the magnification of God’s glory through silencing their transparent testimonies of lament.

A song of lament will echo in my heart and mind until Christ comes or I go Home.  My sorrow at Sarah’s absence and my longing for my Savior, heaven and her will not cease in this life.   The fact that they remain is testimony of my faith in God’s promise of our glorious future prepared in heaven by Him (Heb. 11:36).

Songs of lament flowing from shattered hearts are like beacons in the night for the wounded masses of this fallen world.  Just as God powerfully uses the laments contained in scripture, He will use our transparent testimonies of lament as well.  Through transparently sharing our sorrows we have opportunity to comfort others with the comfort we have been given.  The greatest comfort for us who believe being that this is not our Home, we are but sojourners here, and in just a little while He who is coming to take us Home will come and will not delay (Heb. 10:37).  Come, Lord Jesus.

 

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Artwork: Sarah Harmening

15 thoughts on “Sunshine Christianity & Forbidden Lament

  1. Amen! Glorious! I agree with Scott! Until you have walked in those shoes, no one can begin to fathom the sorrow and struggle that is your reality. My daughter has frequently said, “It is what it is.” Lots to say, but it all seems so meaningless. I love your mind and heart, Karen. You have such a gift! I am in awe of you!

  2. I will just echo the comment from Susan above. Amen! Although we have not met, you are my sister in faith and I think of you often. I lift you & your family in prayer and continue to learn from all that you share. Thank you for sharing your faith, your heart and your walk. You shine such a light on the holiness of God in all things. I remain so deeply touched by the profound faith clearly evident in Sarah’s heart as well. I will continue to pray for God’s near presence, comfort & blessings in your family.

  3. I’m not sure if she found the phrase “Sunshine Christianity” somewhere else, but I know Melanie DeSimone uses that term. Perhaps she came up with It?

    1. Interesting, I hadn’t seen her use it before. I read it in a random article about prosperity gospel when I was studying to teach a lesson a few weeks ago. It didn’t really expound on the phrase just used it in passing. I didn’t save the article because it didn’t have anything I was using for the lesson, wish I had saved it. Someone else sent me an article that uses a similar phrasing, “solar” instead of sunshine. I guess it’s not an uncommon idea, it was just new to me.
      On an unrelated note, I saw you are going to the WWW facilitator’s retreat, I can’t wait to finally meet you!! 😊

  4. As always, I agree with everything that you say. The prosperity movement was not something that I gave much thought to before Leah died, but like you, it impacts my life in new ways now. There have been times, when our grief was extremely raw and we were very vulnerable emotionally, that people said things to us that I now know were thoroughly unscriptural.
    Last year I read the book “Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel” by Kate Bowler and this has helped me to understand and process how the prosperity movement may have impacted on the thinking of churches and individuals, I found this beneficial.

    By the way, Rend Collective was Leah’s favourite band. She had an amazing time at their concert just weeks before her chemo started. We carried Leah’s coffin out of the church to quite a rousing rendition of ‘My Lighthouse’, led by the praise band, but with all the young people singing along – the words seemed so appropriate:

    In the silence, You won’t let go
    In the questions, Your truth will hold
    Your great love will lead me through
    You are the peace in my troubled sea
    You are the peace in my troubled sea
    My lighthouse, my lighthouse
    Shining in the darkness. I will follow You
    My lighthouse, my lighthouse
    I will trust the promise
    You will carry me safe to shore (oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
    Safe to shore (oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
    Safe to shore (oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
    Safe to shore

    1. So very appropriate and beautiful, Victoria. ❤
      I can remember thinking years ago how unfortunate the prosperity gospel movement was but also thinking it was just a small "fad" if you will that would quickly die and not be of significant impact. How very wrong I was as it has literally swept around the globe, so heart rending.

      1. I forwarded this to my daughter. She is going through postpartum depression and anxiety, has a 6 month old that seems to have digestive issues and screams a lot and doesn’t sleep much plus she has some health issues herself. And she misses her brother who died from a brain tumor. She reached out to her Christian friends to pray and was told she needed to be more positive and make sure she was tithing because they got what they prayed for right after they tithed more.

      2. I am so sorry your daughter is going through a difficult time right now without the support of her friends. Spending time in the Psalms has been tremendously helpful to me, oftentimes praying the laments and praises of the Psalmist as my own words. Praying for her right now for peace and strength to endure as well as for improved health and more sleep and less crying for her sweet baby. 💙

  5. Dorothy oxendine was chair lady of Gold Star mothers for a time. She lost her son in Vietnam in 1968; other mothers have experienced that tragedy since. I knew her. She was a fine Christian lady and I’m sure she’s reunited with Willie now. My hope is that others will reach out and share their story despite the circumstances. I have lost friends in military service and they all had mothers.

  6. At times, thru life, it’s best to leave the past buried. And in as much as we relish its resurrection; Hopes, dreams, they’re a mere mirage of what we believe should have been but was not. I have learned this.

    1. Perhaps that is true of past experiences but certainly not of loved ones, we do not leave them in the past. Because of the certainty of our Hope in Christ Jesus we know they are a part of our future, so we expectantly wait for the time we are reunited with them.
      “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” Hebrews 10:23 [NASB]

  7. Past experience/loved one? How do you differentiate between the sun and moon when they both provide light? They’re both relevant and present.

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