Lament!

from Rev. Bruce Wood - November 2015

Published in News First ó our monthly church newsletter  

(I had so many comments about this reflection on lament, that I thought it might be helpful to have it down in writing to read at your leisure.  This is an abridged version.  If you want the full experience - come along on any Sunday!)

Humour, and wit, and happiness are very important ingredients in our living, and so are sorrow, and sadness, and lament.  Lament is an important, and yet, often neglected expression of our humanness.  Laments are protests and complaints - raised at times of crisis and great need - by individuals, and by communities - as an expression of their grief, and sorrow, and suffering.

Lament announces aloud and publically whatís wrong - it creates room for expressing grief and loss - and names the weeping and fracturing of our relationships.

Lament might sound a bit like this.  Why is this happening to me?  Iíve tried to get things right, and now thereís so many things going wrong.  Theyíre driving me nuts!  Whatever happened to my normal life?  And what about you God, where are you? Not sure if you even really exist any more!  But if you do, what about some answers?  What about making some of these awful things go away?

Laments are not polite, or soothing, or gentle.  They are not said in a modest, or timid, or retiring manner.  Expressing lament is about giving voice to our suffering - and our raw emotions - those raw feelings that create havoc inside our being.  They are about giving ourselves permission, to vent those feelings.   

The Bible is filled with lament - 50 of the Psalms are plaintive cries to God for an explanation.  The entire book of Lamentations is devoted to lament.  Psalm 22 begins with some of the most devastating words of any lament, my God, my God, why have You forsaken me? 

And what follows are some of the most potent laments in the whole bible. 

But plaintive cry is not the whole Psalm.  The second part of the Psalm breaks out into a surprising element of lament.  That is - when the protest has been sounded long and loud - and the rawness of the complaint has been laid out - lament changes - from despair, to hope.  However, the words of hope - only come after the lament. 

Lament typically comes in 3 parts.  Part I - we get mad at what is happening to us, or maybe with God, and pour out our emotions.  Part 2 - our complaints gradually subside, and we remember that we are all part of something much bigger than ourselves.  And Part 3 - we begin to realize that once again we are actually okay - and there is hope in our future.

The movement from arguing and protesting - to remembering Godís goodness - and then thanking God for the hope that is in humanity - is not a process we can rush.  We need to give ourselves - and others - time, and space, to grieve in a way that leads to healing and renewal. 

Taken out of context, lament may seem to be a denial of faith in a loving God - or a wish to blame someone for what has happened.  However, lament hangs on to God, pleading and complaining in hope of a response.  Quietness, and holding back emotions and feelings that threaten to explode, are not the actions of one who has faith in a living God.  Lament keeps the conversation and the engagement with God alive.

Times of deep sorrow and suffering, are not the time to throw our hands in the air and walk away unheard.  They are not the time to hold grief and hurt inside.  However, they are exactly the time to re-engage with God - the time to re-engage with those who love us.

Life is meant to mean something to us, deep within our being - and that meaning often comes through tough times.  And if times are tough - then you need to feel comfortable enough to express your feelings - to express your frustrations - without harming anyone else.  When you do that, it may make people around you feel uncomfortable - but their job is to listen - not to fix - however difficult they
may be.

The good news is that thereís healing in lament - and there is hope in lament - however - thereís no way to tap into that healing and that hope - without going through the eye of the storm.

Our life journey will bring with it joy, and happiness, and delight - as well as uncertainty, and anguish, and sorrow.  But God is not a passive distant blimp, looking from afar.  God is like a parent whose children's freedom brings them pain - God's tears, are mingled with our tears - God's agony, is united with our agony - God's heart, breaks with the breaking of our heart.

And remember that God doesnít need protection from our honest and searching grief, and the pain of our hearts.  God wonít be shocked or stunned by our complaining, or the intensity of our pain - and God will not block us out because we come with rage and intense emotions.

Critically, lament lets us express our hurt and our pain, not in spite of our trust in God, but because of our trust in God.  Lament is not a denial of our faith - itís actually our faith being willing to struggle with unanswered questions and unresolved situations, by holding onto God in the heart of the storm. 

And God would say to each of us - there is no situation that is hopeless - just situations where people have lost hope.

Rev. Bruce Wood