Jeremiah, in the book of Lamentations, sees the destruction of the city of Jerusalem. He sees the divine discipline that God is bringing, and he has the boldness to proclaim over that moment, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end” (Lamentations 3:22) on a scene that most people in their culture would look at and say, “God has abandoned you. He doesn’t like you. He hasn’t kept His promises.”
Lament is the language of sorrow when you live between the poles of a hard life and trusting in God’s sovereignty. Lament is the language that helps a culture to understand, “We know the problem, we know the king, and we know what to say in this moment. It’s lament.” Instead of giving God the silent treatment, falling into despair (“I can’t do this”) or denial (“everything’s fine”), lament encourages us to talk to God about our struggles so that we can reaffirm our trust in him. Simply stated, lament is a prayer in pain that leads to trust.
Laments usually involve four key elements. These overlap sometimes; not all of the elements are there, but in general, laments involve these four key elements: Turning, Complaining, Asking, Trusting.
1) Turn to Prayer: When pain creates struggles or hard questions, lament invites us to talk to God about it. Even if it’s messy or awkward, lamenting is better than faking it or not talking to God. Laments take faith, where we choose to turn to God when we are hurting. In that respect, to pray a lament prayer is one of the most faith-filled things you can possibly do. What lament does is it acknowledges, “This is really hard, and yet I’m still going to talk to God about it.”
2) Bring Our Complaints: Lament invites us to bluntly tell God our questions, fears, and frustrations. There is grace in lament as we get honest with God, knowing that biblical laments ask gutsy questions: “Has God forgotten to be gracious?” (Ps. 77:9). You can complain sinfully, but there is also a language within the Bible where we are allowed to take our complaints to the Lord; we are allowed to talk to God in a way that’s humble and heartfelt to say, “God, this is what I’m feeling.”
3) Ask Boldly: Calling on God to act in accordance with his promises runs parallel with our complaints. Pain can create disappointment, but lament provides the language that dares to hope again. Lament invites us to ask for help—again and again. Laments invite us to keep asking for God’s help, even while we are still in pain. I don’t have to believe and then ask, I have to ask so that I’ll believe. That’s what lament does; it helps us, strengthens us, and then moves to the final destination of lament—which is trust.
4) Choose to Trust: The destination for all laments is an affirmation of our trust in God. Gut-level, honest prayers provide a pathway for hurting people to move through their pain. Laments are not cul-de-sacs of sorrow, but conduits for renewed faith. So turn, complain, ask, and trust. This is where all laments are designed to lead. If you don’t end in trust, you have not lamented. You’ve just been sad.
Lament is more than tears and sorrow. It turns to the Saviour who promised to return. Lament vocalizes the longing for the day when “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev 21:4). Christians believe in the goodness of God, and they know the arc of the plan of redemption: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. In the meantime, as we long for the completion of that glorious plan, we lament.
*Adapted from Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament by Mark Vroegop
This week’s bible reading schedule:
|☐||Monday: Lamentations 3||☐||Thursday: Daniel 1|
|☐||Tuesday: Lamentations 4||☐||Friday: Daniel 2|
|☐||Wednesday: Lamentations 5||☐||Saturday: Daniel 3|