Our world has been totally upended and we all feel it. But, few of us have made the time to process the many layers of loss and disappointment we have experienced the last few months. Most of us tend to carry around a lot of grief that isn’t dealt with. A lot of disappointments and failures that are buried underneath our busyness and distraction.
When pain comes, we tend to want to grip more tightly onto control of what we have. We have already lost so much. How could we possibly give God what is left? Don’t we need that little bit to survive?
But at some point, if we want to see good things come out of hard things, we have to surrender ourselves, our dreams, and our pain to the only one who can make things grow:
We surrender to the God who makes things grow when we surrender to Him in lament. There are two different types of lament in Scripture: individual and communal.
In this season of individual and communal suffering, we are going to need to learn how to do both if we are to become the people He has created us to be. We need to grieve both our individual losses and those of our broken world.
The following list has been modified from a handout I received from Jaco Hamman, from the book, When Steeples Cry: Leading Congregations Through Loss and Change.
The importance and power of lament:
• It is a transcending form of discourse, moving beyond the current reality.
• It acknowledges the limitations of an embodied life
• It affirms the value of an embodied life.
• It grants permission to grieve and protest.
• It empowers when someone feels vulnerable.
• It prepares the way for new understandings of God.
• It strengthens our self-understanding as responsible agents.
• It purifies anger and the desire for vengeance.
• It promotes solidarity with those who suffer.
• It revitalizes praise and hope.
The Form of Lament
1. Address to God:
Usually a brief cry for help, but sometimes includes a statement of how God has come through in the past (See last post – Psalm 126:1-3). We can address God with the names He has given us for who we need in this moment,
Jesus, the suffering servant. Hear my prayer.
Jehovah Jireh (Provider), listen to my plea.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, lead me.
El Shadai, (God Almighty), rescue me.
This is encouraging for those of us who have been there a long time in suffering. We actually are invited to complain to God about our circumstances and name our disappointments!
The complaint is where we name in God’s presence all the suffering we and the world are experiencing.
This is where you cry out,
“What is happening? Why would you lead me through this? How could this be good? How could you let that happen? How? Why? How long O Lord? Where are you? Why?”
These are the prayers we pray in our complaint. This is where we feel all the feels and name them before God – our anger, our frustration, our guilt, our disappointment, or self-justification, etc.
And you know what? He welcomes the full range of these emotions. He isn’t afraid of our anger or whining or rage. Why? Because he created us as emotional beings. It is what it means to be human. Our emotions, even our incredibly strong emotions don’t scare him off. Just take a look at the Psalms and you will see some pretty strong emotional rage.
But rather than pushing us away with all of our messy emotions, He enters into it and says,
“I know. I know this is painful. Let me in. Let me into that anger, let me into that righteous anger that’s welling up in you because you’re right. The world is broken and this isn’t how it should be. Abuse. Neglect. Trauma. This isn’t what I wanted for your story or for the world. But guess what? I’m going to use it anyway. And I’m going to do it by seeping into those
3. Confession of Trust
This is where we name our hope in God even despite all the circumstances (even if we aren’t sure if we believe it yet). It’s where we look back on our stories to see where God has come through in the past and remember what He has done. It is where we look to the God of Scripture who stands above suffering and sees the whole story – who knows our pain intimately, and faithfully produces resurrection. The one who promises restoration at the end of the story. It is where we pray prayers like,
“God, I don’t understand, but I trust that You are good. I have seen You come through in the past. I have seen your faithfulness. I have seen your goodness. I have seen your provision. You are trustworthy. You are good. You are worthy. You are the slain lamb that sits on the throne – you bore the pain yourself. You understand. But you also overcame it through your precious blood. So I will lean fully on you and not myself. I will lean fully on you.”
Upon expressing our confidence in God, we ask God for deliverance and intervention. Here, we ask for God’s help and put our hope in God over ourselves or other Messiahs to save us.
This is where we pray,
“Save me. Heal me, God. Restore our fortunes, Lord. Bring the rain and water the dry places in my heart and in our world. Bring justice. Bring reconciliation. Bring peace. Bring the child I have been longing for. Bring redemption to my marriage. Bring restoration to my church. Could you do it, Jesus? Please?”
5. Words of Assurance
Here we name confidence that God hears our prayers and name for ourselves or others that God is trustworthy and faithful. We recall His character and what we have seen Him do in the past that reminds you of this. We don’t know when and we don’t know how God will answer our prayers, but we name our confidence that He will. Either in this world or in the world to come. It is where we pray,
“Lord, you don’t come through in the way I expect or desire, but I can trust in the promise that in Your time You will bring the full redemption of all things.”
6. Vow of Praise
We conclude our lament with a vow to proclaim what God has done. We trust that God is actively involved in our situation, and so we praise Him for this. And we promise to declare to the world the ways He has and will answer our prayers.
“Lord, I will declare the wonders your hands will do. I will testify about your goodness to all generations.”
Respond: Write Your Own Lament
Write a personal lament. Where have you encountered disappointment in the last year? Those times that you say to yourself or to God, “I thought it was going to look like _______, but instead __________ happened.” Follow the guide above and write it down.
Write a communal lament. Look around – where is the world crying out in brokenness? Write a lament on behalf of the pain you are seeing in the world. Where have you seen others encounter loss or have to let go of something they held dear? Communal lament is a way of walking in solidarity and empathy with those who suffer.
Lord, help me to enter into lament with You. Help me to open myself to the disappointments I have faced this year and the brokenness of the world and lament them in your presence, trusting that You have the power to heal, transform, and make all things new.
Want to learn more about Lament from Bette? She’s sharing about this very topic during her breakout session, Awakening to Beauty Through Lament, at our Move Out Gathering this weekend! Free registration for Move Out Gathering at kensingtonchurch.org/moveoutgathering.
Bette has provided a further free resource to guide you through Lament – just enter your email address here and she’ll send it to your inbox!
Bette’s most recent work, Seeds of Hope: 4 Week Guide for Seasons of Loss & Waiting, is full of beautiful insights and original art. It is available for purchase here.
Bette Dickinson is a part of our Traverse City campus and frequently shares her gifts with the greater Kensington community. She is an artist, writer, and speaker whose mission is to awaken the soul through beauty and wonder in ways that fill people with meaning and fuel their purpose. Find out more at https://www.bettedickinson.com/.