An Invitation to Lament
We’re all grieving. Students mourn the proms they didn’t have. Folks agonize over the income and insurance they’ve lost. People ache after their friend or family member joined nearly a quarter of a million others killed by this “novel” virus. We’re all grieving . We need to. We need to wrestle and scream and plead with God to do something about the whole dadgum thing.
Actually, we need to lament, and today I invite you to that. We’ll journey together, interactively, so grab something to write with and get into a comfy chair. Begin by jotting down the first thoughts that come to mind when you hear the word lament.
Now, join me for a brief chat . . .
Next, peer into a bit of my personal lamentation, a piece that I call “Travailing.”
“Her nine months are torturous, but come to an end. The hours, even days, of writhing and shivering are excruciating, but come to an end. Agony gets swallowed up in the joy of maternity. Pain ends. It must. Neither body nor soul could bear its continue. Why, then, do you you leave me in this perpetual sorrow?
“You’re taunting me. You’ve already dug the grave for this dream I carry. Chiseled its stone marker. Written its epitaph. My mind strolls the cemetery…row after row of passions I pursued that you refused to give life to…row after row of babies born blue.
“You’re mocking me. Why call me to minister, then leave me ostracized? Why design me with capacity for profound intimacy and awaken a desire for marriage, but keep me aching in singleness? I can ignore neither your commands nor my convictions to acquire “good” things I sincerely desire. And, you won’t release me from the desires. So, I writhe and wrestle without relief. The longer I do, the less your intentions seem good.
“You’re killing me. You’ve made me to move and explore, yet trap me within these slick walls of affliction. You’ve given me the vision and stamina to sprint, but restrain me with this limp. You lead others into spacious places, yet cup your hands over me so that I cannot escape. You comfort others with your rod and staff. But, the longer these implements touch me, the less your character seems kind.
Friend, if you think my words are too vicious, take a look at those of the “weeping prophet,” Jeremiah:
“I am the man who has seen the afflictions that come from the rod of God’s wrath…He has turned against me….He has built forts against me…surrounded me with anguish and distress…buried me in dark places, like those long dead…walled me in; I cannot escape.”
He lurks like a bear, like a lion, waiting to attack me. He has dragged me into the underbrush and torn me with his claws, leaving me bleeding and desolate…He has filled me with bitterness and given me a cup of deepest sorrows to drink.”
I have forgotten what enjoyment is. All hope is gone; my strength has turned to water, for the Lord has left me. Oh, remember the bitterness and suffering you have dealt to me! For I can never forget these awful years; always my soul will live in utter shame” (Lam 3.1-20, TLB).*
Reflection: Are there any thoughts or emotions I withhold from the One who knows my heart? Am I scared to share them? Numb to them? If so, why?
When you’re ready, join me to chat about the ways lament works . . .
Take a prayerful pause, allowing God to search your heart. Do you sense distrust or hard-heartedness toward him? Is he revealing a particular sin, perhaps one that’s intricately attached to grief you bear?
If you’d like some guidance through repentance, pray this beautiful confession on page 360 of the Book of Common Prayer.
When you’re ready, join me for a few moments to discuss the tension between grief and hope . . .
Dear one, you’re not alone. Even as you wait for hope to materialize. Even as you writhe and wrestle. You’re so not alone. Together we cry out to the Lord.
“Let your tears flow like a river day and night; give yourself no relief, your eyes no rest. Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him” (Lam 2.18-19). And, know that you are not alone.
*For more on the specific historical and theological context of Jeremiah’s laments and Israel’s exile, please read this article.