When I was a young child and I fell over, skinned the knee or was just feeling the need to be ‘noticed’, I would cry. Read: wail. Louder than I needed to. My mum eventually taught me to ‘cry with my mouth closed’ so the neighbours didn’t call the ambulance before she could put a band-aid on my scratch. However, despite the slight suppression tactics, I always knew that when I cried out, my parents would respond. And whilst I could trust them (or another caregiver I loved) to be there when I fell, they never promised me a life of no more skinned knees or stopped me from running ever again.
During this COVID-19 pandemic and the extended lockdowns, we may find ourselves struggling to stay positive, confident, or even sane. The burden of isolation, loss of connection, impact of reduced incomes and fear of health all weigh heavily. They all have an impact, and perhaps the ‘band-aid approach to wellness’, or ‘seeking to remain positive’ is not really cutting it anymore. You are perhaps in need of deep lamenting…
My invitation for you this week is to take off the masks of ‘I’m alright’ and ‘We can do this!’ and cry out in pain, anger, frustration… but turn those cries to God.
Lament during this lockdown!
So how do we lament?
Lamenting is more than just the expression of sorrow or the venting of emotion. Lament talks to God about pain. It is a form of prayer, and it has a unique purpose: trust. It is a divinely-given invitation to pour out our fears, frustrations, and sorrows for the purpose of helping us to renew our confidence in God.
Reading through the Psalms, we can get a good grasp of the art of lamenting. Almost like reading someone’s journal, the grief-riddled poetry of the Psalms capture the common ups and downs of life. But they do more than just that; they point us to Christ.
Take Psalm 13 as an example…
How Long, O Lord?
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
1How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
As we see in this example from the psalmist, lamenting involves:
Just like a child who is confident of the love of a caregiver will cry; for the Christian, our lament, when taken to our Father in heaven, is proof of our relationship with God, our connection to a great Caregiver. It is a way we build relationship. It is a response to God – we cry out because we know he will hear us. And whilst God does not promise a life without pain or anguish (skinned knees or pandemics), he does promise that he will never leave us (Heb 13:5). There is nothing that we can say, or yell at him in frustration and anguish, that will make him leave or love us less. We do not need to hide our grief, confusion, and even anger. God made those emotions; he can certainly handle our raw expression of them (Rom 8:39).
So, write out your own Psalms and prayers of Lament.
Speak of your anguish, and seek Him.
And may your trust in God’s faithfulness to hear your cries; be as Praise to Him!