My heart is heavy tonight.
Tonight, friends are grieving. Some are asking questions. Some are suffering silently. But tonight I’m praying for those who mourn, and my list is long.
Today I’m reminded of the importance of making space for lament. Lament is the cry of the brokenhearted. We lament when we grieve that the world we know it is not the world as it should be. Lament is the voice of those who suffer, who live with unanswered questions, who feel rejected and embattled on all sides.
We lament when the sky is like brass and God seems like just another name on the list of those who have abandoned us.
Lament is the overflow of a desolate heart.
Scripture is filled with lament.
How long O Lord? Will you reject me forever? (Psalm 13:1)
My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1)
I live in disgrace all day long and my face is covered with shame at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me, because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge (Psalm 44:15-16)
All my enemies whisper together against me; they imagine the worst for me (Psalm 41:7)
Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief (Psalm 31:9).
Though lament is one of the most common forms of the psalms, it’s not something we often embrace as part of our worship. I’m not sure why. Part of it may be our discomfort with messy emotions. Part of it may be that the praise and worship movement’s emphasis on singing songs to God doesn’t always leave space for songs of encouragement we sing to one another. And I think some of it is that we “should” ourselves out of emotions–trying to talk ourselves out of the disconnect between what we feel and what we believe is true.
But sometimes we just need to weep.
Lament is our response to spiritual disorientation. We know–we know– God is faithful. And yet we still hurt. What do we do with that pain?
We lament by being honest about our emotions. There is no “should” to emotions. Anger, loss, betrayal, loneliness, rejection, sorrow, fear–these are parts of life. We can’t talk ourselves out of deep emotions. These deep-seated echoes of the heart have to be experienced to be resolved. To lament, we must let ourselves feel.
We lament by sharing our sorrow with the community of faith. My introverted self prefers to keep deep emotions hidden. But I am challenged by the reminder that the psalms–even the psalms of lament–were used and sung in corporate worship. There are times for us to weep in private, but we should not always keep our lament hidden. Jesus was open and honest about his grief. He wept over Lazarus, mourned for Jerusalem, and agonized over the cross. We need safe spaces where we can be honest about our pain so that our faith families can help us bear it.
We lament by crying out to God. This can be hard. It feels disrespectful to tell God that you’re mad at him and don’t really want to talk to him right now. We may struggle with telling God we feel abandoned when we can cite verse after verse that says he never leaves us alone. But God knows the secrets of our hearts. What we see modeled for us in the Psalms is that when we take our complaints to God our circumstances may not change but our experience of them does. Sometimes God rescues us–and when he does, we rejoice. But sometimes God doesn’t take us out of our pain. He gives us the strength to keep on walking, one slow step after another. He doesn’t carry us out; he carries us through. And in those places of silent sustaining, we find we aren’t so alone after all.
Sweet sister, let yourself feel. Mourn. Grieve. Rage. Weep. Lament. Songs of lament are as valid expressions of faith as songs of joy.
And we need them both.
How do you make space for lament?
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