I came to the church office early this morning, coffee in hand, turned on my “Organizing My Desk” playlist, got down to business. It is early afternoon now as I begin writing this article, and I have checked off about a dozen items from my to-do list. I also have learned of tragic news from two friends: one has been diagnosed with advanced gastric cancer, the other is anticipating his girlfriend dying today. Last week, neither person knew anything seriously was wrong. Both are in their 40s.
This is life. It has its highs and its lows. It’s easy to celebrate the highs, but we often do not know what to do with the lows. Sometimes we feel like we need to grin and bear the hardships of life, tucking them away in some place where that can’t get at us. And as people of faith, we sometimes may feel the added pressure to put on a smile for God or others, as if expressing our true feelings to God revealed an irreverence or a lack of faith. The white church in North America has lost its ability to lament.
But the Bible is replete with stories and songs and prayers of lament. Hannah’s weeping and prayer in Samuel 1, gives us a glimpse. But the book of psalms, which was a bit like Israel’s hymnal and prayer book, contains some of the most vivid and graphic songs, expressing their
anger, hurt and fear. The book of Lamentations, not surprisingly, gives voice to Judah’s lament of captivity and exile. And then
there are the many images of lament: weeping, gnashing of teeth, beating breasts, tearing the robes, and wearing sack cloth and ashes.
What the whole witness of Scripture shows us is that lament is an important act of faith. Over these next three weeks, as we explore the theme of lament in the Scriptures in worship, I want to challenge you to be open to what the Holy Spirit may have to say to you. Consider how you have expressed, or not expressed, your experiences of hardship to God in worship. Is God issuing you an invitation to bring a part of your life experience honestly before the throne of grace? Is there a way that you can come alongside someone who is suffering, not to fix them, but simply to be a companion and advocate in prayer and lament? Is God inviting you to take another step on the road from hurt to hope? I look forward to sharing this time of focused reflection with you.