Whilst I have done my fair share of lamenting over my life, I think it is something I have often felt guilty about, even ashamed about and is not something which I would normally share with others. However, at a recent church bible study we were discussing laments in connection with mental health. This piqued my interest and I have now had a wee look at this ‘Art of Lamenting’.
The first thing I have learnt is that it is okay to lament! It is nothing to be ashamed of or to feel guilty about! It is an honest response to our pain and suffering when we cry out to God with our situations, speaking them out as they are and not trying to make them sound ‘acceptable’ nor give them an air of forced joyful acceptance!!
There are typically 5 phases of a lament:-
- The address or introductory cry
- The complaint, the stating of the problem/situation
- A confession of trust
- A prayer for deliverance
These phases can been seen in the Psalms of Lament, for example: Psalms 3, 4, 5, 13, 14, 17, 27 ,36 ,40, 42,43, 89, 142 for individual Laments and Psalms 12, 44, 58, 60, 80, 89, 126, 129 for Corporate psalms of Lament.
These are phases we go through, not always in one day, i.e. we don’t utter our lament and then wham everything is okay. It is a process of admitting our helplessness and turning over our situation and our wills to God and then coming to that place of trust in Him, where we know and see that He is in control and is bigger than our circumstances, even if those circumstances are not changed.
A lament is our authentic prayer to God. It is our honest heart cry.
It is good and healthy to state our case before God without dressing it up. Lamentation should take us from the mourning/angry, self-centred stage to looking up to God, looking up, looking out and finding hope. It is a hope which is placed in God alone, as we stand stark with no-where/no-one else to turn to. That hope then encourages us to trust a bit more and a bit more till we come to a place of submission.
God is big enough to deal with all our laments, worries, woes and complaints, we should not be afraid to do this. It is our journey with Him and it is victorious to be able to come to a place of trust in the midst of our situations.
Vaneetha Rendal Risner has a Chapter on Lament in her book: The Scars That Have Shaped Me. She calls the chapter (7) Beauty from Bitterness and says:
When we lament we invite God into our pain, so that we can know His comfort and others can see that our faith is real. Our faith is not a facade we erect to convince ourselves and others that pain doesn’t hurt – it is an Oak tree that can withstand the storms of trouble and pain in our lives and grow stronger.
So my friend, let us not dress up our pain, let us not put on a facade and be all stoical about it, but rather let us be honest before God and before one another and call our pain and agony for what they are.
Through our lamenting let us keep the communication channels to God open.
Through our lamenting let us invite God into our pain.
Through our lamenting may we yield our pain to God and may He indeed bring beauty out of bitterness and victory through our trust in Him.
May we learn the art of lamenting, of laying our souls bare before God and coming to a place of trust in the midst of our situations.