“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
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
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
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
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
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?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralysed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.
Habakkuk’s distress at the evil and suffering around him caused him not
just to lament, but to question God. Why did God tolerate such suffering
when He had the power to stop it?
Lord, are you not from everlasting?
My God, my Holy One, you will never die.
You, Lord, have appointed them to execute judgment;
you, my Rock, have ordained them to punish.
Your eyes are too pure to look on evil;
you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.
Why then do you tolerate the treacherous?
Why are you silent while the wicked
swallow up those more righteous than themselves?
Habakkuk, a prophet of the Most High God, knew that our questions do not
threaten the creator of the universe. He is not surprised by them either.
Lament, wrestle and embrace, mean coming to Him with our sorrow,
doubts, and questions. It means you “can wrestle with God about all that
you don’t like, yet simultaneously embrace Him because He is good and
trustworthy” (Craig Groeschel, ‘Hope in the Dark’). Lament is the path
through the pain that leads to new hope.
After Jonathan died, I felt that God went silent. I could not hear His voice at
all and that both scared and hurt me. Since then, I have heard from many
others who experienced something very similar after a devastating loss.
I suspect that Job must have experienced this silence too after his children
died. He did not expect such a devastating loss. He had been faithful to
God and praying for the protection of his children. He trusted God to protect
his family. Instead, he lost everything.
For the first 37 chapters of Job, God is silent. Job laments. He wrestles with
God by putting his sorrow-filled questions to God and his friends (see
chapters 3,6,7,10,12,16,17 and 24). At the same time, he embraces the
truth about God (see chapters 9,19,23,26 and 27). In the rest of the
chapters, Jobs friends, instead of grieving with him, chastise him for his
loss and grief. What about God? He remained silent. Then, in Job 38:1, for
the first time, we read, "Then the Lord answered Job…";
Why did God stay silent while Job lamented? Why did I, and many other
Christians, experience those episodes of silence? Why didnt God speak
immediately to alleviate Jobs pain inflicted by his wife and friends cruel
words? Why didnt God sweep in instantly to silence Jobs lament? I submit
that it is because God knows the power of lament. He knows that before
healing, comes lament. God knows that lament is the only prayer that the
heartbroken soul can sometimes utter, and He allows us to sit with our grief
God’ silence is not abandonment. I fully believe that in His silence, He is
lamenting beside us. In His silence, He is working through His Holy Spirit,
our comforter, who descends and silently sits with us through our lament.
Can you imagine how much more helpful and comforting Jobs friends
would have been if they had spoken less and instead drew close to Job,
held his hands, put their arms around him and joined him in his lament?
We serve a suffering saviour, a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief
(Isaiah 53:3). Jesus too taught us how to lament. As He hung on the cross,
feeling the weight of our sins and the pain of separation from His Father,
He lamented: My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken me? Our
Saviour understands the depths of grief that lead to lamenting; thank you,
God, for giving us a suffering Saviour.
My prayer is that we all would use this beautiful gift of lament when we find
ourselves needing it and that when those in our midst are grieving, God will
grant us the grace to sit with them a little while, not to point to the silver
lining quickly; but to lament with them as we look forward in hope.
by Daisy Adongo