Walking the long goodbye with Kara through breast cancer was an incredible gift, a unique and precious season of crying hard, laughing hard, loving hard, hoping hard. It taught me to lament—to grieve with hope! Kara has been with Jesus for over a year and a half now, and I am slowly learning how to lament in my everyday life, not just the big losses. I am learning to lament the sorrows I encounter on social media, the pains of raising children, the messiness of broken relationships, the hurt of rejection, my mundane failures. Because at the end of the day, even a day when I feel beat up by the brokenness of this world, since I still have Jesus, I have hope.
- Lamenting makes us more human. Lamenting is the ability to give voice to the animalistic groans of our heart, expressing sorrow in response to brokenness, grief in response to loss, and hope in response to God’s promises. Even animals can grieve, but only humans, created in the image of God, are gifted with expression of pain that connects us to Christ who called out to his Father, My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? (Matthew 27:46). In lamenting, we return to our roots of empathy and innocence and faith. Lamenting humbles us, forces us to admit that we have no satisfying answers and that our only option is to trust God, even when he seems untrustable. Lamenting allows us to connect with mankind and slip into each other’s skins and cry until our tears are intermingled, our hearts joined. Lamenting confesses our smallness, fragility, and need for a Savior.
- It is dishonest not to lament. When we read the Psalms and they resonate with the screams of our souls, we join the cries of humanity throughout the ages. We were created to love beauty and to create and to live in relationship with each other. We were designed to love deeply and passionately, to nurture and celebrate, to dance and sing and laugh heartily. And when we encounter the reality of our broken world—so unrecognizable from the world God first created—our spirits ache with sorrow, they yell against injustice, they sob at death. Our souls were intended to engage each other and all of creation—how then can we live in isolation and the dishonesty of pretending our hearts aren’t being ripped in two when we see pictures of drowned toddlers washed up on beaches or read words intended to dehumanize our brothers and sisters or see videos of people being shot and left on the street to die? We live in the tension between brokenness and hope, and lamenting is our language.
- Lamenting creates a safe place for others to lament. Our hearts know this, don’t they? We can spot an unsafe person a mile away—the person who showers us with Bible verses and platitudes and even truth but who cannot cry with us and refuses to acknowledge the depth of our pain and the reality of our brokenness. When we lament—when we cry alongside our brothers and sisters and wail our prayers of confusion and despair and hope—our hearts join together in speaking out against injustice. We experience oneness. We are kindred and vulnerable and humble. When we lament, we are saying, I cannot fix this, I cannot fix you, I cannot fix this broken world. All I can do is cry hot tears and allow my heart to vomit the overwhelming sense of wrongness that comes with pain and death. We are in this together. And when we are honest in these cries, our focus is on Jesus—not solution—and we are a safe place for others to come alongside to call out against iniquity and beg God for deliverance. We come together in grief and are united in hope.
- Lamenting gives us hope. The opposite of lament is despair—to despair is to grieve yourself into despondency; to lament is to grieve yourself into hope. As Christians who live with the promise of eternal joy in the presence of our Creator, we should be the biggest, bestest hopers on this planet. We should radiate hope, anticipation for what is to come with the redemption of brokenness and the promise of death coming undone. We should shine with joy because while we live in tension now, we can taste the coming restoration. Yet that hope requires the honesty of acknowledging the state of our broken world and the death and illness that surrounds us; therefore, as Christians, we should cry the loudest, shake our fists the hardest, fight injustice with the most passion because we know where we come from, and we see most clearly the devastation of sin in our lives and on our earth. We were intended for Eden, but we live in the valley of the shadow of death. And yet…And yet our hearts that were meant for Paradise carry with them the promise of the Paradise to come: God making all things beautiful. We cannot lament without recognizing that we will indeed be delivered from this valley into our Father’s arms, and the root of that hope is faith in that Father who so tenderly laments with us. Lamenting teaches us hoping.
- Lamenting reflects the heart of God. Jesus wept. Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died because Jesus was sad. His friend was dead. He was angry at death. He was angry that his other friends—Lazarus’s sisters—were hurting. He joined their cries of sorrow and taught them to lament by realizing their deepest hope: the resurrection of their brother, the restoration of life. Christ took on their grief and embodied hope. So when we lament the state of our country or our marriage or our neighbor’s health, we reflect the heart of God who mourns with his own children, and we trust that grief to him in faith that our hopes of redemption will some day come true. Our God is not a cold dictator, sitting on a throne, eyes steeled against our pain; no! He is a God who joins our weeping and offers us hope of hearts restored. What better way to engage others as God’s image bearers than to weep with each other and remind each other of the hope to come.