Although Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 does not specify lament, the first verse does say “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” We are presently in a season and a time to lament.
Prior to this past March I was not too aware of the idea and practice of lament. During the month, however, I read two books that brought me up to speed on it. The first book was entitled Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms by Glenn Pemberton. The second book, Open and Afraid: The Psalms as a Guide to Life by W.
David O. Taylor, had a chapter simply entitled Sadness that addresses the subject.
Lament can be either a noun or a verb. As a noun lament is “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow” or “expression of loss.” As a verb it means to “mourn, bewail, bemoan, grieve, or express sorrow.” Lament, both as a noun and a verb, is in the Bible – primarily in the book of Psalms and the book of Lamentations, but elsewhere as well.
The Covid-19 pandemic alone has brought lament to us; and the tragic death of George Floyd and its aftermath has added to our lament. We have experienced and still are experiencing a variety of losses in our lives from all of this – obviously, some more than others.
To lament is not to be unspiritual or lacking in faith. Taylor goes so far to observe the psalmist’s complaint “is a sign of an active, not a passive, faith” (p. 73). Suffering and troubles are consistent subjects in the book of Psalms.
One writer suggests that in Genesis 6:6 God laments. In John 11:33-35 Jesus lamented the death of Lazarus and the grief of his sisters. Romans 8:26 tells us “the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” We need to give ourselves the freedom and space to grieve.
Lament is more than simply to complain or vent. As a matter of fact, lament can include praise and thanksgiving as we honestly respond to the Lord in our times of loss, pain, confusion, and disappointment. As we lament we can at the same time express our faith and ask God to act. Pemberton notes that those who lament in the Psalms “believe with all their hearts that their prayers make a difference in what God does” (p. 71).
This particular season and time of lament is not our first, nor will it be our last. As Taylor reminds us, “We live in a broken world” (p. 67), and as Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). It is comforting to know that God is fully aware of what is going on and happening around us and to us, and that he hurts with us.
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