Lament and Remembrance

We live in a chilling moment.

Children are dying. War has no end in sight. Political discourse is laced with malice and vitriol.

Yet, it seems to me, our time is no different than many other times in world history. There is nothing unique about the previous paragraph.

This is one reason the Hebrew Bible is filled with lament. Half of the Psalms are lament (two of which Jesus quotes on the cross). Job is an extended dramatic lament. And Israel has given us a whole book, exquisitely crafted in five poems (three of them acrostics), dedicated to lament. We call it “Lamentations.”

We read Lamentations, Job, and the lament Psalms to learn to lament, practice lament, and move through lament into God’s mercy.

Lament is not simply wallowing in one’s sorrow as if it is a function of self-pity. Nevertheless, it is complaint but more. It is also petition and even praise. Lament moves us through grief toward a confident hope in God. It takes time, and it takes practice. We must take the time to talk it out with God and lament with the help of our community.

Through lament the people of God, both as individuals and a community, voice their hurts, offer their petitions, and express their hope.

Indeed, at the center of Lamentations is one of the greatest expressions of hope (Lamentations 3:22-24). When we pray the laments, let us also remember to profess:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
            his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
            great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
            “therefore I will hope in him.”

Let us lament every evil in the world. Let us cry out to God for help. And let us trust in God’s faithful love, which is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit because we stand in the grace of Jesus, God’s Messiah.

The mercies of God are new every morning, including this morning!

–originally published as an email called “Light for the Day” through Lipscomb University, November 14, 2023.

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