Leaving Room for Lament
I listened to a wonderful podcast recently from Annie F. Downs (Episode #221) as she interviewed Pastor Eugene Cho. Cho talked about a need to lament in this season of Corona virus. Have you given yourself permission to lament lately? Pastor Cho asked.
I think it is challenging to make room for lament in a culture that encourages us to move on, avoid, and move past suffering. Who wants to get stuck in suffering’s waiting room?
What is lament?
Lament is a form of prayer where we cry out to the Lord and express our pain point. We see this modeled in the Bible. One third of the Psalms were written in the lament form. There is actually a whole book of Lamentations in the Bible. Even Jesus lamented from the cross in Psalm 22. A great study on lament is tucked into the book of Job. There we see poor Job experience the worst losses perhaps anyone has ever experienced.
In chapter one, Job loses everything. He loses all his adult children, most of his servants, all his livestock, and everything else he owned. Almost all that filled Job’s life to overflowing was systematically wiped out with a brutal efficiency.
After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said: “May the day of my birth perish, and the night that said, ‘A boy is conceived!’ (Job 3:1-3 ESV)
In this chapter Job launches a volley of questions and laments in a long procession that makes room for the grief he is experiencing. He needs to do this. He must unload the weight of all he is experiencing in the ultimate safety that exists in the sacred space we occupy with God when we pray.
Human nature is to blame others. We try to move as far away from our pain and what we perceive to be its source as is possible. We make excuses and create distance. We try to numb our pain with food, alcohol, busyness, screen time, escape. These avoidance techniques can look different for everyone.
We want to short-circuit the grieving process and not sit in our pain. We want to move on and run to the next experience. When we do these things, we miss an opportunity for growth. Job laments his pain and spews it out word after painful word.
Many of us have experienced loss during this pandemic. Pastor Cho encourages us to work through our losses by naming them and bringing them into the light. This is necessary, explains Cho, because we try ignoring them, excusing them away, minimizing them by comparison, (it wasn’t as bad as someone else’s loss), stuffing them, obsessing on them. None of that is healthy. Cho suggests we make a list with the Lord. Write the losses and disappointments down and then tell God about them. He already knows, but you will be blessed by doing this. Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of the losses you may have lost track of. You might even have losses that you haven’t allowed yourself to even think about. Process through your pain. Failure to do this will result in your spiritual growth getting stunted. In this season, leave room for lament.
Blessed are those who lament because you promise in your Word God that we will receive comfort. I ask that you bring a blessing of comfort as we take time to lament our losses. We desperately want to grow and bring honor and glory to you. We want to be strong so we can offer comfort to others from the overflow of all we have received from you. Amen