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Learning to Lament

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“We are constantly in a world that is pressing us to be strong, to be okay, and to have it together all of the time,” said Leslie Chisholm. “The reality is we are not always okay. We’re not always happy, we are also hurting and in pain. Everybody is walking through different things.”

“I believed Jesus was my savior at a very young age, because my parents taught me about Jesus early. But I didn’t quite understand the impact He could have on my life. Although I made many attempts to find a fresh start and create new plans in a new job or a new city, I would constantly find myself back at square one with the same issues I was trying to escape – isolation that led to sexual sin, bitterness, and anger towards things in my past.

“One day in a rush to my work commute, I grabbed a book from my bookshelf. I don’t remember buying the book, but it was about who God says we are. As I was reading, I realized that I had been labeling myself as something different than I was living. I claimed I knew Jesus, but I didn’t live as if I did. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew I couldn’t continue the way I was living. That evening, I prayed through Romans 10:9-10, and I proclaimed I believed in Christ, that He died for my sins, and I wanted to live like I believed that truth.

“The next month, my niece passed away the day of her first birthday. I was there as she took her last breath. I vividly remember as the EMTs were trying to get a pulse, I immediately was praying and pleading, ‘God, I know you are big enough to do something with this. Please do it.’

“His answer was different from what I would’ve chosen. That night I remember not wanting to feel anything. As I was on my knees crying, I had no words to pray, but I felt an overwhelming sense of comfort. I knew in that moment that I had a choice to make. Do I go the same way I did before, numbing everything or do I choose the way of the Lord and allow Him to order my steps? I made the decision to choose Him.

“After her funeral, when I was back in Dallas I started to attend Watermark on Sundays and found out about GriefShare, Watermark’s ministry for people who’ve lost loved ones. I continued to put on a façade and act like I was okay, but when I sat in GriefShare the first night, reality set in. Something about saying, ‘My niece passed away,’ caused me to finally break. I cried but felt relief. Over the next 13 weeks, the Lord gave me the strength to be vulnerable, express my feelings, and process my grief.

“In 2018, I had the opportunity to participate in groups at Watermark discussing racial reconciliation. I realized that what I learned about Christ through my season of grief was applicable to other areas of my life, too. God showed me that I had not spent active time lamenting and grieving the hurts and pain from the racism I had experienced in my life, as well as the injustice I had seen. I thought that anger might be frowned upon. But in this community, I had a place to confess my unrighteous anger about my experiences and what was going on around me, and then be spurred on towards righteous anger (Ephesians 4:26-27, Mark 3:5). For the first time in my life I felt fully seen, fully known, and fully loved.

“God has led me through multiple seasons of loss since then – seven different family members have passed away in the last five years. But as I moved into those losses, I had what I needed because the Lord was going to be faithful to save me as He always has been. In seasons of lament, I don’t have to have it all together. I don’t have any answers or words for my feelings.

“Jesus cares about what we are feeling, and He wants us to turn to Him as we feel it. The Lord, through His Word and biblical community, has continued to show me who He made me to be, the story He’d given me, and the opportunities I now have to share His name.

“In this season where racial injustice is under a bright spotlight, I’ve had people ask me, ‘What do I do?’ The world wants a quick fix. A lot of us have thoughts in our heads that say, ‘I don’t want to feel this. I am going to suppress or numb this. I am going to be overcome by these feelings or this circumstance.’

“I personally am very much at a tension point of being angry, irritated, heartbroken, and grieved by what I am seeing on the news. Experiencing this once again in my lifetime, I know I am just one choice away from choosing worldly sorrow, which ultimately leads to sin and death. I am hurting and in pain, but at the same time, I am experiencing joy, peace, and comfort because I have hope in Christ. God is allowing me to use my story to help encourage a world that needs Jesus. If you asked me five years ago where I would be today, I would not have thought I’d be sharing my lament and pain with groups of people.

“Lamenting together in the Lord is biblical and speaks volumes in a society that seems to say, ‘you’re not loved or seen.’ It is in lament that God shapes our hearts and helps us see the action steps we need to take. In the midst of despair, hopelessness, deep sorrow, and deep grief the Lord is faithful to provide us with what we need. We have the freedom to either choose a worldly sorrow that produces death or a godly sorrow that produces life, salvation, healing, and reconciliation.”