Lament. It’s not a word we use very often. If ever. We talk about feeling “down,” discouraged, sad, even depressed. We may use the word “grieved” or “broken-hearted” if we have experienced a significant loss or a death. But we rarely talk about the word “lament.” Yet that word expresses a very important biblical concept that shouldn’t be ignored.
Lament means “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.” Synonyms of lament are words like: mourn, grieve, sorrow, wail, weep, cry, sob, “beat one’s breast.” Laments are most often found in the Psalms and are honest complaints poured out to God. They are cries of the heart, sometimes full of sadness, anger, fear, anguish, or despair. They are characterized by gut-wrenching honesty and emotion.
For example, we read in Psalm 44: 23-26,
Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
24 Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?
25 We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground.
26 Rise up and help us;
rescue us because of your unfailing love.
We can almost hear the psalmist crying out to God for help and rescue. He is asking (actually demanding), “Why?” and accusing God of sleeping on the job. You can hear the desperation and despair in his voice. He describes himself and his community as laying in the dust, clinging to the ground; both are pictures of being so weak as to not be able to stand, and feeling utterly defeated.
When was the last time you expressed your hurt or pain to God with such honesty? When was the last time you were “real” with God about what was going on inside your heart? Or, like most of us, did you stuff your feelings, and pretend everything was ok?
Good mental and emotional health involves grieving our losses and disappointments. I’m not an advocate of “wallowing” in despair, or throwing a never-ending pity party for ourselves, but I also don’t believe we can just “move forward” without truly getting honest about our feelings. When we don’t allow ourselves to grieve, we often have to harden our hearts in order to move on and pretend everything is fine. But that does nothing to help us have an authentic relationship with God, ourselves, or others. Unless we allow ourselves time and space to lament, our wounds and disappointments will turn to bitterness and resentment.
Esther Fleece, in her book “No More Faking Fine: Ending the Pretending”, writes, “There is no healing in hurrying through grief. There is no restoration in ignoring pain. Rather, healing can be found when we learn to lament honestly.”
God invites us to “pour out” our hearts to Him, for He is a refuge for us (Psalm 62:8). He may not change our circumstances, but he promises to be with us in our pain, and to “comfort those who mourn” (Matt 5:4). He may not answer our “Why” questions right away, but He promises to “heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds (Psalm 147:3).
Because I have learned to be honest about my hurts and disappointments with God, I have drawn closer to Him as my source of comfort and support. I don’t just know in my mind that He is “for me,” I have experienced it and have been transformed by it. I truly believe that if God can do this for a brokenhearted, defeated psalmist thousands of years ago, and can do this for me in my own personal journey in the 21st century, He can do this for you, too.
My question for you is, will you trust Him with the things that are hidden in your heart, maybe things you haven’t shared with anyone else? Will you allow him to comfort you in the places where you have not received comfort? Will you let him be the safe place, the refuge, that he wants to be for you?
Even the writer in Psalm 44 was able to acknowledge God’s unfailing love, despite feeling utter despair. In verse 26, he writes, “Rescue us, because of your unfailing love.” Other versions translate these same words as “loyal love,” “faithful love,” and “unchanging love.” It is that kind of love that enables us to come to God with honesty, sharing our laments, and trusting him to be with us and transform us in the process.