Learning to Lament

Learning to Lament

by: Alexa Hess

News headlines flash images of war. Your phone buzzes with a text about a sudden death in your family or community. You pull up social media and are met with the latest tragedy—another shooting. The hand of grief grips your heart and tears flood your eyes. What are you to do?

The brokenness of our world can be so wearisome, but we are not left without a way to respond biblically. In moments of sorrow, God’s Word encourages us to lament. Lament is a prayer during times of trouble, pain, and despair. Lament allows us to cry out to the Lord and pour our hearts out before Him when we feel broken and hopeless. Lament enables us to bring our emotions, questions, and pleas to God through prayer. But lament is not only about voicing to God our pain and struggles but placing our trust in Him. Let’s take a look at Psalm 13 together that includes all the elements of lament: prayer, honesty, petition, and trust.

Prayer

Take a minute to read all of Psalm 13 below.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long will I store up anxious concerns within me, agony in my mind every day? How long will my enemy dominate me? Consider me and answer, Lord my God. Restore brightness to my eyes;

otherwise, I will sleep in death. My enemy will say, “I have triumphed over him,” and my foes will rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your faithful love; my heart will rejoice in your deliverance. I will sing to the Lord because he has treated me generously.

The psalmist, David, doesn’t voice his cares and complains to himself, but he brings them before God in prayer. He addresses God directly and continues to speak to God. While it isn’t wrong to share our struggles and thoughts with others, as believers, we are to be people of prayer. In times of crisis, we can witness our world responding with tears and cries of pain, but what makes lament different is bringing our tears and cries to the Lord. This begs the question, do you pray to the Lord when disaster strikes, trouble hits your life, or deep despair crashes down? We do not have to keep our pain bottled up inside; we can pour it all out to the Lord in prayer.

Honesty

David’s prayer contains honest questions and thoughts to the Lord. He asks a question we, too, might find ourselves asking: how long? But David also asks more questions that express his feelings of being far from God and stuck in a place of anxiety and agony. He shares with God about how his enemies are against him and how they will defeat him if God does not act. David’s words in this psalm teach us how we can be honest with the Lord. We do not have to be afraid to share all of what we are feeling to God. We can bare our souls to God, knowing that our grief is not too heavy for God. When we lament, we should be honest with God about our situation, the feelings we have, and the questions that run through our minds.

Petition

David doesn’t just share what he is feeling and experiencing to God, he also asks for God to act. In verse 3, David asks for God to consider and answer his prayer and bring him restoration and deliverance. Prayers of petition are prayers for God to meet a certain request and plea. These prayers acknowledge that God is a God who acts. God doesn’t just accept and hear our prayers, He responds to them. Prayer is powerful, and even though it is hard to grasp how God works through our prayers, the fact that He does encourages us to voice requests to God. In the moments we are desperate for God’s justice, deliverance, and provision, we can ask for Him to move. No situation is too great for God to work through, so we can ask God to act in ways that only He can.

Trust

After coming to God in prayer, bringing our cares before Him, and asking God to work, we are to trust in Him. Without trust, we can allow ourselves to remain in a place of hopelessness. Trust allows us to rest in God’s character and promises, even if we don’t see immediate results. David writes in verse 4 how he trusted in God’s faithful love and his heart will rejoice in God’s deliverance. He even declares how he will praise God in response to God’s generosity. David looks ahead to the deliverance he knows God will bring and trusts in the Lord. He recalls God’s faithful love and generous character and places his hope in Him.

Ultimately, as believers, we can trust that God will act because He has already worked in a mighty way through Christ. Jesus is the answer to the brokenness of this world and the sinfulness of our hearts. Through His death and resurrection, those who trust in Him are delivered from death. And one day, Christ will return to eradicate wickedness and make all things new. God has shown us His faithful love through Christ, so we can trust that God will be faithful still.

In the moments tragedy brings you to your knees and grief pierces your heart, lament. Do not ignore or push down your pain but come to God in prayer, giving everything you are feeling to Him and asking Him to act. But don’t stay in that place of despair. Choose to hope in the Lord and trust Him in every troubling circumstance.

If you want to dive deeper into the topic of lament, I would encourage you to check out Mark Vroegop’s Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy. The Daily Grace Co. also has resources for suffering and grief such as Gospel Hope in Grief & Loss and Faith Questions-Suffering.

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