One day last week I glanced out the window before heading off to morning prayers. The walk from the Ffald y Brenin Farmhouse to the Prayer Room is a short one. Half a minute maybe. And yet I always hum and haw about whether to take my coat.

Cheerful sunshine persuaded me to make my decision: no coat. But by the time I reached the Prayer Room door, a shadow had fallen. I felt chilled. Rain pelted the windows as we prayed.

Twenty minutes later, the sun shone again, so I ventured out to the High Cross. Soon a light rain fell as the sun continued to shine, causing me to awkwardly cover my camera with my sweater as I ran back to the Farmhouse. When I arrived, the rain stopped again, and a rainbow graced the skies above the Centre.

This is what the weather has been doing here lately. Sun. Rain. Sunny rain. Windy rain. No rain. Sun again. It makes it hard to know how to dress or whether to go out at all.

There’s something about the human psyche that likes well-defined categories. It helps us to know what to expect. It helps us to prepare. It helps us process an event. It helps us to embrace a particular mood. There’s something jarring about anticipating a cosy rainy day of reading by the fire and suddenly a heat wave comes out of nowhere.

Life brings many opportunities for conflicting emotions. The celebration of a new baby as Grandma enters hospice care. Reaching a graduation milestone against the backdrop of shrinking jobs in the field. Leaving community that you love to move to a place where there is meaningful work. Enjoying retirement after many years of faithful labour while facing a new injury.

Even smaller moments contain this paradox. We can feel satisfied with a project at work but sense tension with a colleague. We may feel the heaviness of what we’ve seen on the news but find ourselves laughing at a funny commercial.

As Kelly M. Kapic says in his book, You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News:

“Many of us have experienced complex moments that are filled with seemingly inconsistent emotion. But what if you don’t have to pick between lament and joy? Lament and thanksgiving are not in a contest. If we try to choose one and not both, we risk turning our laments into hopeless despair or reducing divine promises into shallow cliches. When we engage in both lament and gratitude, then each becomes stronger and truer. Lament and gratitude are mirror concepts that highlight the same fundamental truth: we are dependent on the God who rescues us.

This is freeing for me. God gives me permission to bring my raw lament and my thanksgiving to him, sometimes at the same time, without requiring me to clean them up into defined categories. True lament protects me from its sinful counterfeit: grumbling. And true thanksgiving protects me from its shallow alternative: fickle optimism.

Our morning prayers here at Ffald y Brenin reflect the beauty of lament and thanksgiving. Often the passages we read from Psalms contain complex and contradictory emotions. The personal experiences of each person in the room gives the passage a beautiful resonance. One person feels the anguish of the Psalmist, crying out for relief. Another bursts into joyful song. Collectively we bring our lament and thanksgiving to the Lord. This communal practice reminds us that God is faithful in it all.   

When discouragement fills your day, bring it with full honesty to the Lord. When a moment of delight breaks in, allow it to wash over you and bring it to the Lord. God desires for us to bring the complexity of our emotions to him at all times. He does not require you to tidy yourself up into a well-defined mood.

May we rest in this: rain and shine are both invitations to connect with our Father.

Michelle Brock is the media director at Ffald y Brenin.