By Deacon Mary Delancey
This is a time of great grief. No matter what our feelings about the response to the virus, all of us are experiencing loss. On top of that are added the losses that can come to everyone’s life. Illness and death, family strife, financial woes have not stopped just because we are social-distancing and, often, have been made worse by it. Some of us despair and some of us deny. Most of us fall somewhere in between these two extremes. And somewhere between despair and denial lies lament.
Lament is an age-old practice that the modern Western church has largely forgotten. In general, American churches avoid expression of pain, and suffering is often seen as weakness of faith. Because we read a psalm every week, we hear more laments than most churches. At least one-third of the Book of Psalms are laments. They ask, “God where are you?” “God, if you love me, then why?” These are generally the psalms that make us squirm because they reach down to a level of pain that seems at odds with worship.
But lament is actually a profound and productive path to worship. When we acknowledge our pain and our suffering, we are acknowledging that we live in a broken world that will only be made whole when Jesus returns. Lament is recognition that we cannot get through this life without God. Whatever else we lose, He is still sovereign. As Michael Card says in his book, A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching out to God in the Lost Language of Lament, “Far from denying the existence of God, the lament of faith cries out on the basis of an appeal to the living God’s loving-kindness, in spite of the fact that the present conditions would suggest otherwise.”
Card uses the examples of Job, Jeremiah, and David to show that God’s Word teaches us to lament so that we may draw closer to God. But it Jesus who teaches us the true meaning and purpose of lament: “Jesus understood the honesty represented in the life that knows how to lament. His life reveals that those who are truly intimate with the Father know they can pour out any hurt, disappointment, temptation, or even anger with which they struggle. Jesus spoke fluently the lost language of lament. He is our best hope of recovering this forgotten vocabulary.”
There is a Bible Study that accompanies A Sacred Sorrow, that can help you understand lament and the importance of voicing our sorrows to God. If you would be interested in a group study of lament using this book and other resources, email me at email@example.com.