LAMENT: THE SONG OF THE GRIEVING

“Lament is how you live between the poles of a hard life and trusting in God’s

sovereignty. Lament is how we bring our sorrow to God. Without lament, we won’t know how to process pain.”


Mark Vroegop, ‘Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy’


Language is a gift from God, without which we would live in isolation; we

would be unable to communicate our thoughts, feelings and needs to

others. A few days ago, I spoke to a friend who recently suffered the

devastating loss of her husband; a young man in his prime who left behind

a young widow and little children. She shared the feelings of anger,

betrayal and pain that she has been experiencing towards God. Having

gone through a very different but equally devastating loss, I completely

empathised with her. We are not alone. I have been listening to and

reading about many Christians who have had similar devastating

experiences and freely confess that these experiences led them to a

spiritual crisis.

While most Christians freely share their spiritual triumphs, we do not often

speak publicly about these challenging moments in our lives. As a result,

many of us do not know the language to use when we experience loss and

faith crisis. Even worse, as a body of believers, we are often unsure what

language we should use to comfort those who can speak out about their

crisis.


A pastor whose daughter was stillborn just days from her due date

expresses this conundrum well when he writes:

‘When occasionally I candidly shared a few of the struggles of my soul, some people

reacted with visible discomfort. Others quickly moved to a desperate desire to “find

the bright side,” a quick change of the subject, an awkward silence, or even physically

excusing themselves to escape the tension. In moments of attempted comfort, people

said things like “I’m sure the Lord will give you another baby,” “Maybe more people

will come to the faith because of the death of your daughter,” or “The Lord must

know He can trust you with this.” Every person meant well…but it became clear that

most people did not know how to join us in our grief.’


Mark Vroegop, ‘Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy’


Thankfully God has given us the language of lament. Lament is a language

of prayer; it is the gift that God has given us to communicate our grief to

Him and others and express comfort and love to those hurting.

Lament may seem like an archaic word, but it was very much a part of the

life of the children of God in the Bible. They lamented over their sins, death

and suffering, and participated in public acts of lament as well. God has

given us an entire book of the Bible on Lament (appropriately titled,

Lamentations), a lamenting prophet called Jeremiah and numerous songs

of lament in the book of Psalms. Approximately 70% of the Psalms are

songs of lament. We have multiple examples of believers who lamented in

the Bible when they faced difficult circumstances. David lamented when his

son and his best friend Jonathan both died.

Lament is holy; lament is a language of prayer. The gift of lament reminds

us that God does not expect us to pretend that we are ok when we are not.

He does not expect us to find a quick solution for our grief and rapidly

move on. The gift of lament is Gods way of urging us to sit a little while in

our grief and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work, whereupon we will

experience the marvellous grace of our loving God, and, in the end, to

demonstrate His glory.



Lament is holy because it is a cry of hope. When we cry out to God and say

“WHY?” or “Where were you God?”, it is a sign that we still have hope that

God hears and will draw close.


“It is precisely out of trust that God is sovereign that the psalmist repeatedly brings

laments and petitions to the Lord…If the psalmists had already decided the

verdict—that God is indeed unfaithful—they would not continue to offer their

complaint.”


Mark Vroegop, ‘Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy’


Many times, we urge believers not to grieve as those who have no hope;

(1 Thessalonians 4:13). I humbly submit that when Paul is calling us to

grieve with hope, he is, in fact, calling us to lament. I think it is easy to

misunderstand Paul as saying we should not grieve; in essence, now dont

cry anymore, move on. To the contrary, Paul is calling us to go ahead and

grieve; he is teaching us how to grieve, not telling us not to grieve.

Christians grieve through lament. It is the prayer language that God gives

us to express our profound sorrow as we pursue hope, trust, and renewed

joy.


Habakkuk


I have never thought much about this minor prophet in the Bible. I knew he

was in there, but I did not know he had something to say that I could relate

to.


Habakkuk’s name summarises the concept of lament. His name means

“both to wrestle and embrace. It’s like that kind of hug that wants both to

cling to you and to push you away” (Craig Groeschel, ‘Hope in the Dark’). A

prayer of lament is how we wrestle and embrace; we wrestle with “the

paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness” (Mark Vroegop, ‘Dark

Clouds, Deep Mercy’). We wrestle with grief while we embrace joy. We

wrestle with disappointment while we embrace trust. We wrestle with

profound loss while we embrace the beautiful promise of eternal life.

The night before we discovered that our son Jonathan had died in my

womb, I had a powerful feeling that he had died or was dying. I cried out to

God all night and felt like I was wrestling with Him not to take our son away.

I can only liken my experience that night to what Jacob must have felt when

he wrestled with God. Little did I know that my experience that night would

mark the beginning of my journey through lament; my continued wrestling

with and embracing of God.

Habakkuk too brought his lament to God. In Habakkuk 1:2-4, he cries out to

God, asking why God is not changing things, yet He has the power to.

Habakkuk is asking God why He is not listening to his prayers.


How long, Lord, must I call for help,

but you do not listen?

Or cry out to you, *Violence!*


but you do not save?