J. Todd Billings is Gordon H. Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. And he has incurable cancer. Billings has just written a piece for Relevant titled, “Are We Missing Something Important About Prayer?” In the article, he talks about learning the language of lament. He writes:
Whether our burden is an illness, the loss of a relationship, the loss of a dream, or fear about the future, laments in Scripture give us a path for bringing our anxiety and confusion before the Almighty.
Over a third of the Psalms are laments. Paul speaks of the whole creation groaning and lamenting, and the Spirit intercedes in “wordless groans.” Jesus laments in protest—turning over the tables at the Temple—and in grief—sweating blood in the garden of Gethsemane, praying for the cup of the cross to be taken away. Jesus even utters a cry that simultaneously expresses our feelings of abandonment, and heals them, in trust of the Father: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The article is well worth your time.
Also, Billings’ latest book, Rejoicing in Lament: Wrestling with Incurable Cancer and Life with Christ, has just been released. Here is part of the Amazon blurb:
At the age of thirty-nine, Christian theologian Todd Billings was diagnosed with a rare form of incurable cancer. In the wake of that diagnosis, he began grappling with the hard theological questions we face in the midst of crisis: Why me? Why now? Where is God in all of this? This eloquently written book shares Billings’s journey, struggle, and reflections on providence, lament, and life in Christ in light of his illness, moving beyond pat answers toward hope in God’s promises.
I’ve read Billings’ work on union with Christ, as well as his book on theological interpretation of Scripture. Both were tremendously helpful. I plan to work through Rejoicing in Lament very soon. I’m sure it will be a theologically responsible, brutally honest investigation of some really tough questions.