Having a Category for Lament
Many of us think that lament doesn’t come easily to Christians. For most of us in white evangelicalism, lamenting is not a familiar category. If you were to ask our African-American brothers and sisters, they know what it’s like to lament. If you ask the persecuted church in East Asia, they know what it’s like to lament.
The Christian church—of all organizations in the world—ought to take this category and offer it to the world as a beautiful platform for the gospel.
The notion that lament isn’t familiar is actually an indictment of the state of the American church. This category is important because we need to understand what it means to be in exile. Every person will eventually experience some kind of pain. So, the absence of this category in particular divisions of Christianity creates an element of spiritual weakness that is frankly a bit concerning to me. If a third of the psalms are lament, it seems like we ought to be more familiar with this category.
The other reason I think that people aren’t familiar with it is they don’t know what to do with it. I was just recently with a friend who was lamenting deeply about cancer that’s returned in his son’s body and his wailing in prayer made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. I wanted him to stop because his pain makes me afraid.
Lament is a category that is both historically unfamiliar and uncomfortable for many of us. And yet, if we live in a broken world and if pain is a part of the reality of what it means to be human, then we need to learn what it means to lament.
The Christian church—of all organizations in the world—ought to take this category and offer it to the world as a beautiful platform for the gospel. Because we know the arc of the end of all of laments, so we ought to know what it means to lament in the in-between time.
I can’t think of anything that is more powerfully comforting than these words: I will never leave you or forsake you.
Lament is the biblical language for people who feel like God is distant.
No one sets out to learn lament. But once you find it, you're so thankful because there's grace that God can give you when the dark clouds of hardship and pain roll into your life.