Welcome to Lament 101: the who, what, when, where, why, how, and so what of it. This is a beginning, to help us wrap our heads around a part of the Christian faith that many of us are not super familiar (or comfortable) with. I’m with you; I did not grow up practicing lament. I’m happy to receive any questions this raises for you.
Who is lament for?
Lament is for every Christian. We all stand in the space between heaven and earth, praying and waiting for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Sometimes we have a lot to lament. Sometimes we have only a little. Some people are more sensitive to the world’s brokenness. Lament invites us into solidarity with the pain and suffering of others beyond ourselves. As God opens our eyes and breaks our hearts, the more we realize there is to lament.
What is lament?
Telling God everything we know
when things have gone wrong
because of what God has promised.
See Lament Definition 101
When do we lament?
At any time. Lament is a Christian response to the always-present suffering and pain in the world. We exist in the time between the “already” of Jesus’ death/resurrection that turned the course of history and the “not-yet” when Jesus returns and history is brought to its glorious completion. Lament is not just for when we feel more despair than hope and goes hand-in-hand with praise as the Psalms show us.
Where do we lament?
Like much of the Christian life, we lament in various spaces. It is something we practice together with the community of faith. Lament is a form of worship that ultimately acknowledges and affirms the relationship between God and ourselves as God’s people in Christ. Sometimes we do this on our own. Like other forms of prayer, lament can take place anywhere.
Why do we lament?
We lament because our hearts ache and break for the brokenness in this world. As humans, we recognize plenty is wrong in ourselves and in others; in our souls and in our systems. We lament because we are in a relationship, or covenant, that God established with us. This covenant is the bedrock on which lament is built. Without lament, we can more easily get stuck in the despair aspect of suffering or seek unhealthy means of distraction or numbness. Lament is good for our souls, our solidarity with others and our communion with our God. Jesus lamented several times as he participated in God’s work of saving the world.
How do we lament?
Like most of the Christian life, lament is better learned by practice than by study. The Psalms offer multiple examples of lament. They often begin by naming what is seen as wrong with the situation through cries and questions such as, “How long, O Lord?” There is movement into petition, asking God to intervene and change the circumstances. Lament acknowledges trust in the Lord even when the way forward is unknown. Usually, but not always, lament ends with a promise to praise God after the anticipated action has occurred. While there is no set formula - even Bible scholars debate the finer points of lament - we can start with following the example of the Psalmists.
So what? Why should we care about lament? What difference does it make?
Lament acknowledges and increases our hunger for God to make things right in the world. It makes us aware of the necessity of our dependence on God to take action and save all of creation. Lament forms us into Christ’s image. Lament is part of the vocabulary of faith. To be God’s faithful people, we need to learn to speak this part of the language. Lament puts us in touch with the pain of others as well as our own. It increases our ability to relate to our neighbors and gives us a way to share our lives on the broken to beautiful journey.
Pastor Andrew Vanover | Lead Pastor
P.S. On Saturday, Oct. 1, Gary Burge will be leading a conversation called “When life goes bad…then what?” to help us with practicing lament. Gary is a phenomenal presenter who has planned an interactive time. This is for those who are asking the "then what?" question and who know others who are asking it. Childcare will be available, register HERE.