Believe Big Podcast

61-Lindsay and Jason Swain - The Transformational Power of Lament

October 24, 2023 Ivelisse Page & Jason and Lindsay Swain
Believe Big Podcast
61-Lindsay and Jason Swain - The Transformational Power of Lament
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This week’s podcast features Jason and Lindsay Swain of Two Rivers Church in Fort Collins, Colorado, as they discuss the power of lament and its ability to bring healing, connection, and hope. 

Jason and Lindsay share their personal experiences and insights on grief and loss as ministers and people, including their own journey of grief after losing their child and how emotions evolve over time.  

They also talk about:

  • finding peace through lament and the importance of honoring pain 
  • the need for self-care 
  • the benefits of exercise for mental and emotional well-being 
  • seeking support from safe people such as counselors, friends, and spiritual directors
  • the importance of intentional reflection and allowing oneself to feel 
  • and much more.

 Don’t miss this important episode and take time to make lament part of your faith in healing.

Connect with Jason and Lindsay Swain at Two Rivers Church:
https://tworiverschurchfc.com/

Suggested Resource Links:


Ivelisse Page:

Hi, I'm Ivelisse Page and thanks for listening to the Believe Big podcast, the show where we take a deep dive into your healing with health experts, integrative practitioners, biblical faith leaders, and cancer thrivers from around the globe. Welcome to today's episode on the Believe Big podcast. My name is Ivelisse Page, and it's an honor to spend this time with you. Today we are exploring the transformational power of lament. Lament is often overlooked or silenced in today's fast-paced world. Yet it holds the potential to unlock deep healing and connection. It allows us to honor our pain and find peace, build resilience, grow, and ultimately bring hope. I am so excited for you to hear from my dear friends Jason and Lindsay Swain, who are my pastors here in Fort Collins. A little bit about them. Jason graduated from Vanderbilt and received his theology degree from Biola. Lindsay graduated from Baylor and they have been involved in full-time ministry for over 25 years together and have six amazing children. One in heaven with Jesus and five with us here today. They are passionate about helping people find grace, hope, and true freedom in the midst of struggle and joy that is life. Welcome Lindsay and Jason to the show.

Lindsay Swain:

Thanks, Ivelisse.

Jason Swain:

Yeah, glad to be here.

Ivelisse Page:

So our listeners are always interested in discovering what our guest's favorite health tip is. What would you say is yours?

Jason Swain:

Ladies first.

Lindsay Swain:

I have found that exercise is beneficial for my mind, body, and soul. So I really call it my mental health, even though it's for my physical health. But for a while I was so busy and I just really put that on the back burner. And I had been kind of a runner. I played soccer and I would run, and then I just couldn't do it anymore. Something happened with my hips. And so then I just stopped and I started paying for a class at the gym. And that has made all the difference for my mental health, really mental and emotional, and obviously physical as well, but it's been more for my mental health. So I go three days a week to a 45 minute class and somebody tells me what to do.

Ivelisse Page:

I love that. That's a great one. That's a great one. How about you, Jason?

Jason Swain:

I'm committed to exercising and being at the gym three or four days a week, and that's helpful for me both from a physical standpoint, but honestly more so mental and communal, just seeing good friends and we're in there together. And this might be an interesting one that you may not have heard before, but I just, I have to have things that are outside of my normal pastoral experience and take the pastoral hat off. And, so I coach basketball in the winter and at a local high school and I tell people that is therapy and they actually pay me for it. It's just a mental space for me to be a coach and work with young people. And so that's, I just think it's important to have things in life that you really enjoy that's for you and that gives life a balance. And so exercise and maybe just a really good hobby would be my thought there.

Ivelisse Page:

Yeah. Things that bring you joy, things that bring you life and community for both of you. I think that kind of ties into your exercise, which also brings in such mental and emotional healing. So that's awesome. Thank you for those tips. So Jason, you did a three part series on Lament this past January that really resonated with me, and I know what you both have to share today is gonna help so many of our listeners who are struggling with cancer or even those who have lost a loved one to cancer. Can you briefly share with us what led up to you pausing the series that we are in to focus on lament?

Jason Swain:

Yeah, so part of Lindsay and I's story is our second child, Summer, died 20 years ago, and so her 20th birthday was December the 20th. And that, that just hit home in a fresh way for me that I wasn't necessarily expecting, but it wasn't surprising at the same time. And so as we moved through the holidays, I really, I took the first three Sundays of January just to be present in my own journey with our church body. And so we did a three week series that I just called The Grace of Lament. And Lament is for me, just a pretty normal address to God over the years. And so I'd never taught on Lament specifically, but I just needed space in my own journey to lament and to invite people in our church to go on a journey with Lindsay and I, and then to invite them into a lament space that often is not understood. People haven't really thought about, even though there's a book in the Old Testament called Lamentations, most people I have found, don't understand or practice a lament as part of worship before God. And so we leaned into that three week series and it was really important for Lindsay and I and myself for sure in teaching that series, and a lot of people in our church family as well. And everybody has lament in their life, pain, struggle, hardship. For me, like an easy way for me to define lament is it holds the ground between the heart circumstances of our life and the hope and the joy that we have in the Lord. And It's important. It's important space. It's important ground to hold, and the scriptures give us not just permission, but encouragement to bring our lament to God.

Ivelisse Page:

The loss of a child is unimaginable pain and, could you guys briefly describe the emotions you've experienced during that time and how they've evolved through the years? Cuz you even mentioned it was 20 years later and I think for some people dealing with grief or pain, feel like, gosh, it's been several years now. It should be easier. So can you help to explain how those emotions evolve over time?

Lindsay Swain:

I think I would say the beginning of it is a shock and it's an adjustment to the shock and I think in our situation, our child died suddenly. I think for some people, it's a progression, but either way it's a shock of a loss of your child and all the dreams you have for that child. And then there's a dynamic to that loss as well and how it impacts your family as a whole. And I think that's where the progression over time and the emotions that are similar but different. So on her 20th birthday, it's the loss of what she would be doing, what her relationship with her siblings would be like, what our relationship with her would be like. And then you have the dynamic of husband, wife, and we're both grieving differently. And sometimes it might hit me out of the blue and maybe not him and he doesn't wanna go there, or vice versa. And so it's just this journey of continuing to be in and out of a shock. The shock, and also just this, the deep sadness and the longing that we feel over time that everything will bring up just with our other kids growing up and what they're doing and what Summer would be doing and how they would all be relating and then all of a sudden just being so sad that Ellie doesn't have her big sister or something like that.

Jason Swain:

Yeah. I think you mentioned time. One of the things that I have said over the years in trying to help people understand our journey and to encourage and equip them in their own journey, for me, time doesn't really heal the wound. I think time lessens the intensity, over the course of years on years. And so 20 years has been a while and I think what happened for me at her 20th birthday, it just, it felt really fresh. And I encourage people when fresh waves of grief come in our stories and our journeys in our longings and our losses, to let it take you where it needs to take you. And so in that way the emotional journey it does ebb and flow, for sure, but time doesn't heal anything really Jesus is the healer. He is the redeemer. He's the restorer. He is the hope giver. He is the one that walks with us through the valley of the shadow. He is the one that we hold onto when we're feeling totally overwhelmed. I'll never leave you. I'll never forsake you. I'll be with you always. And for me, the visual in my mind right now is a rollercoaster, 20 year rollercoaster, and I don't pretend to think that's gonna necessarily change over the next 20 years of my life. I just think it's part of the reality of our story. And I tell people I walk with a limp now, because of the pain of our story. We have hope. Hope has been totally and fully restored. God has worked in ways that are simply miraculous for me in my life and in our marriage and in our family and in our story. But I'm always gonna walk with a limp. There's an amputation in my life now, and that's just my journey. And I don't know that I have anything more to say other than just, it is the journey and it ebbs and flows and sometimes we go where it takes us, the grief journey, but we know who is with us in the midst of that.

Ivelisse Page:

You also shared that you learned that grief is that it's not tame, it's messy and it's unpredictable. And so I love that analogy of the rollercoaster because it's up and down and to the side, and you're just not sure which way it's gonna go in that season. And it can be uncomfortable for individuals. What would your advice be to people who are trying to walk through that, and are just trying to rush through it or bury it and, what would you say has been an effective way for you all to lament through that time and navigate those complex emotions?

Jason Swain:

The first thing I would say is certainly not to bury it. If you are trying to bury that kind of pain it will come out oftentimes in really unhealthy, destructive ways. And so to feel what you need to feel to have a guide on the journey, to have safe people that are full of grace and not of judgment about where you are in the journey and that you can lament freely. One of the things that I love about the Lament psalms is they are messy. And there is agony and there is crying out, and it's not it's not churchy. It's real, it's authentic. And I just would encourage people to allow themselves to have that part of the grief journey. I wish I could share that there's a formula for this. There's no formula for grief. You just have to go through it. You can't go over it or around it or bury it or to the side of it. You just really have to go through it. And, I know for me, I needed guides. I needed safe guides that could help me. I don't know that I would be where I am today. I'd certainly know that I wouldn't be where I am today in my faith and in my journey as a pastor, as a husband, if I didn't have a sage who walked me through some really dark nights of the soul those first two years, and then other safe people, Lindsay included, that can hold some of my own messy grief, thoughts, and feelings, and expressions. Have needed that over the years.

Ivelisse Page:

Lindsay, how about you?

Lindsay Swain:

I would say the word that came to my mind, and granted this is 20 years in, but intentionality. And I think that I can feel when something is bubbling up in me or, if there's something that is nagging, maybe a memory or a feeling. And if I just keep pushing it away, like Jason said, it will end up coming out in agitation at somebody, or I can't, I won't be able to sleep. And so I have found that I need to make time and space to step into and I might not know necessarily what it is. I might just have it in my gut. I might just feel something strong that I keep pushing aside cause I don't wanna go there. And so when I when that's tugging on me I will find time and space to be intentional. And for me, this is where sometimes Jason and I are different and I have been so blessed also by people that have walked with me, but my grief has been more alone. And so I find time to be alone and I might bring a journal and write some things down cuz maybe I don't know what is in there in my mind and in my heart. And sometimes it's a lot of prayer and some music, but just alone time to really step into those feelings and allow myself to feel. And so I would say intentionality in some ways. And I think like Jason said, having people. There's been other times in my life where I just can't navigate what it is, and I just need help talking through it. And I need somebody to ask me questions, pull that out. And it's not easy because it's not fun to talk about. You don't wanna feel the weight of that pain. But it's better to step into it and feel it than to stuff it and let it come out in other destructive ways, because it will come out in destructive ways, different for all of us, but in some way it will be harmful if it doesn't get dealt with.

Ivelisse Page:

Yes. And you both mentioned having people walk with you. Is that friends or did you guys have a counselor or a spiritual director? Who were those individuals, key people that helped you through this healing process?

Lindsay Swain:

I would say both. I think that sometimes it's hard with friends that don't understand, and that doesn't mean that somebody who hasn't been through it can't empathize. They can't step in. It doesn't mean some people can, but what I found is that if I had an expectation on friends to be able to ask the right questions or know what to say or listen in a way that I needed, I usually would probably end up disappointed because people just, if they haven't been through something, a grief or a loss like that, they just don't know, and it's not their fault. And so I realized to really let people off the hook in that way and not have an expectation for somebody to know exactly what to say or the right thing to say or, how to respond at an anniversary or something like that. But there have, along the way, been a friend or two that I can really relate to and understand. And it's usually somebody who has been through some kind of loss, maybe not the loss of a child, but some kind of grief. And those are people that I will walk closely with and be able to talk very transparently with, and also counselors over time. And it's been different at different times. I've been a part of grief groups of moms who have lost children, and that's been helpful sometimes. And sometimes it's just a counselor that I can sit with. And like I said, can ask me pointed questions and draw me out. So a little bit of all of it. And then with Jason as well, there's times that I just, we just. We share the same loss of the same person. And so to be able to have that time with him to go there together.

Jason Swain:

The first two years after Summer went to be with the Lord, I was in a grief counseling relationship with a dear friend and counselor that saved me really from hopelessness. And then as all the statistics tell everyone, when you lose a child it's very intense on a marriage and our story is the same and I think our marriage is pretty miraculous. And we've had a lot of help and a lot of counseling around that. I have a friend that was a pastor in that season of my life that I can call and talk with still. And he's a safe person for me. He's been a pastor in my life for a long time. And then friends like Lindsay said, who have similar journeys. It's not a fraternity that anybody wants to be in, but when you meet someone who understands this pain and loss, you're certainly grateful you're not the only one there. And so I have a couple of dear friends here in town that God has connected me with, that we carry the same burden and I rely on them a lot when it's really raw. Those guys get phone calls from me.

Ivelisse Page:

You mentioned in the service one of them. You got many letters throughout that early time and that you remembered one of'em. Can you share about that?

Jason Swain:

Yeah, that was my grief counselor. I did not know him at the time. He was a friend of my pastor at the time, and he sent a letter that basically just said, I know you probably need to sling some stuff around. Stuff was not what was in the letter, and if you need to sling that stuff around in my office, I will not care if some of it gets on me. And he became my guide those initial years. And we slung a lot of stuff around.

Ivelisse Page:

And Lindsay, you touched on it and I really wanna make sure I address it as well, is that, I think one of the statements you said Jason in the service was kids say the darnedest things, but so do adults. Can you both share some advice of things people should or should not say to someone who is grieving or in a season of lament?

Jason Swain:

That's a great question. Thank you for that. You wanna start with that one? Let me start by saying, I believe and know that people truly mean well. Yeah. And they're doing the best that they can, but oftentimes, it saying less or saying nothing is far better than saying some of the Christianese, defending God, quoting verses, those kinds of things, or saying things that they think will make you feel better but it really comes across as a pithy and uncaring. And I am just quick to always caution people to not have to feel like they need to defend God or make it all feel better. I think that's one thing for me. Like you are not going to make the grieving person feel better. Nothing that you say is going to make the person feel better, but to validate grief, sorrow, pain. I tell people, if you don't know what to say that. I don't know what to say, but I'm here and I love you. That, for me, is better than trying to say the right thing. Or I've had people say before, I don't want to bring it up because I don't wanna make you sad. I'm like you don't understand that I'm sad every moment of every day. You bringing it up actually tells me that you see me and you understand. I think a lot of people are trying to figure out how to connect and they want to help you know that they understand and most of the time they don't understand. And so don't look for ways to find parts of your story to connect to this other person's story. Just show up and be present and say less. I just say less.

Lindsay Swain:

Yeah. I think some of the things that especially being in ministry, we're so used to being people that do listen and do ask questions. And so when people would come and try to help by sharing their story of their sister-in-law that had a loss or their uncle or something that may be related on some level, but now I am the one listening and in some way ministering to you, but I'm the one that is struggling and in loss. And so I think that, like Jason said, less is more in that sense. I think maybe later down the road there might be a time to also share a story that you can relate to, but especially in the beginning. You don't understand my pain because it's just not your story. And so just not to try to relate really just to, there's a difference between, sympathy and empathy and just really trying to let me, as the griever have my place and my story and my grief and my loss, and let that be unique to me. And I think also another thing that, and you touched on this earlier Ivelisse, but when people say time heals, I even had people say, you'll have more children. And that was probably the one that was the hardest. And I did have more children and I had four more girls, but nobody replaces that person ever. And so I think like Jason said, just saying saying less if you don't know what to say. Cuz usually people don't know what to say. And the things that have impacted me the most are exactly what he said when people say, I don't know what to say. In fact I don't, I don't know how to be with you right now. I'm just so sorry and I care and I can't imagine. I've said that to so many people over the years. I can't imagine when really in some ways I can, but I really can't imagine their loss and what they're going through, and that feels more sensitive to me.

Jason Swain:

I would add one more Ivelisse, and this is one of those things that people truly mean well when they say this, but when someone is in the kind of the beginning intensity of grief, you hear a lot, let me know if there's anything I can do. And I know that they mean well. But the reality is I'm just trying to survive the next hour. I have nothing to tell you. And even if I did think of something, boy, it would be helpful if somebody brought us a gallon of milk or could mow the yard for me. I'm not going to ask you for that. I'm just not going to do that. And so I would tell people, if you notice something, if you notice if you're there and there's no milk in the fridge, just go buy a gallon of milk and replace it. Or, gosh, the grass needs mowing. I'm just gonna show up and do it. I'm not gonna ask for permission. I'm just gonna do it. Instead of saying in a text or in a note, let me know if there's something that I'm not gonna let you know. And so I just tell people err on the side of just doing things and, maybe don't, maybe don't say that at all. That would be an encouragement I would offer people.

Ivelisse Page:

That's great advice. We had Kim Hamer on the show a few months ago, and she had lost her husband to cancer. And, she wrote a book called A Hundred Acts of Love, which says just what you're saying is a hundred ways that people can step in without asking, and whether you're a close friend or out of town or in town. And that's one of the things that she said. And she said one of the greatest things was her neighbor just walked over to her and she said it was like six months after her husband passed and he says, Hey, when was the last time you changed the oil in your car? And she's like, oil in my car? And he said, just put the, just put your keys in my mailbox and I'll take care of that for you today. And she said the big thing too for her was that putting the keys in the mailbox, she didn't have to see him or have another conversation or put a smile on her face. He just did that. And then later that afternoon, he says it's ready. And it was filled with gas and he washed it. And so she said, it's just those things of not even having to have the mental capacity to think of ways that people can help. So I love that you mentioned that because it's so important, for people to realize that even if you did remember that they said something, is it something that person would be willing to do? So I think that's when you really just need to step in and do it. You see a need and you fill it. So that's really great that you mentioned that. One question that I hear and have thought about too is over the years people feel badly as Christians and believers to be angry at God or to fully really be in that pain and lament. You said that God welcomes lament, and that our faith suffers when lament is missing. And so why is that?

Jason Swain:

If we're not willing to bring our full authenticity to God, because we are afraid perhaps of retribution or it doesn't feel right or whatever, we will bury some of those thoughts and feelings and we're trying to overcome those things without a resolve or without a restoration or without redemption. I think a lot of Christian experience is celebratory. Theology celebratory worship, which I love, like I get caught up in that too. I love celebratory. A thing that I say a lot in equipping our people is we don't fight for victory. We fight from it because of the cross and the resurrection and that, I believe that, and that's true. But we also need places for lament so that we can find God's tenderness. The reality that he is Emmanuel, with us in that dark place and that grace is sufficient for that place as well. The reality is one third of the Psalms are lament Psalms. And if someone is struggling to bring their authentic, crying out, their anger, their disappointment in God and life, just use the words that you see in one third of the lament Psalms. And the lament Psalms typically begin with a crying out to God, a, a complaint before God. And there's a transition in the middle of those lament Psalms. It's usually the word yet or but, and then at the end of the Psalm is a place of worship holding ground between the hard circumstances and the hope that we have in God. Life is beautiful and life is wonderful. Life is also broken, and we live in between Jesus' resurrection and his coming back when everything will be made new and all will be made well. And so we hold on to that hope. We grieve, as Paul says, to the church of Thessalonica, but we don't grieve without hope. And I just think that lament is really important for people to have their grief and have their hope. Those two things don't have to be mutually exclusive and they should not be mutually exclusive. Grieving and hoping can be can be together. It's why Jesus said in the last supper in John 16, you will have trouble. You will grieve, but you will see me again and no one will take your joy away from you. And so I just find that faith suffers because if we don't have lament, we're trying to maybe hold our grief, our pain, our struggle, our questions, our honest questions before God, because it doesn't feel Christian and having hope in God and worshiping God without that resolve just, it just, there's a disconnect that I think keeps people from moving through grief in the way that we need to, in a way that brings hope and healing. So I just know and believe that lament is really important and I just would encourage people if you feel like it's like quote unquote wrong of you as a Christian, just go read the lament psalms and allow that to give you permission to ask and say the same things.

Lindsay Swain:

I just, I would just echo that. Personally, that's where the Lord has met me the most, is in the depth of my sorrow, my anger, my raw feelings. And now coming out of some of the shock of it, the rawness of it, and it still comes and goes sometimes, but, my faith is stronger because I allowed myself to go to that depth, because I allowed myself to feel the feelings that are icky, the deep pain and the anger, and the fact that the Lord came to me and met me in that and really pulled me out of it, I trust him more and I can celebrate him more, and I have the joy and the sorrow at the same time. I can still, that's the lament that I can trust him, know that he's for me, that he's good, but I didn't always know that and I wouldn't know it now if I didn't question it then. So I'm thankful for him coming after me in the dark place.

Ivelisse Page:

Jason and Lindsay, thank you so much for sharing your hearts with us today. And I just wanted to close with this statement that you shared, Jason, and it said: Life is hard. Yes. And Jesus is the redeemer. All will be made well at his return. All tears gone, all suffering, pain gone in the new Heaven and in the new Earth. Maranatha. Thank you both. If you enjoyed this episode and you'd like to help support our podcast, please subscribe and share it with others. Be sure to visit believebig.org to access the show notes and discover our bonus content. Thanks again and keep Believing Big!

What is your favorite health tip?
Why did you want to focus on lament recently in a sermon series?
Jason and Lindsay share how emotions related to grief evolve over time.
Advice for people trying to navigate complex emotions.
Who were your key people to help you through your grieving process?
Jason shares a little from a personal letter from his grief counselor.
Jason and Lindsay share advice on what people should and should not say to someone who is grieving or in a season of lament.
Why does our faith suffer when lament is missing?