The How and Why of Lamenting Well
The life and teachings of Jesus point to one particular thing as the transformational catalyst toward becoming like Christ. And that one thing is that we are called to hurt. Hurts changes us. It can either change us for good or for things not good depending on whether we allow Christ to be a part of our grieving. He alone turns hurt into healing. Without him, hurt more often than not, turns to bitterness and envy and leaves us with a life of pain rather than marinating in the grace of God’s love.
So how do we take this hurt to Jesus?
I am a southern gal, perhaps you are too and my Mama taught me that if you can’t say something nice, just don’t say anything at all. And though this rule of thumb is helpful, at times it is also hurtful. And unfortunately, I have used this same mindset when speaking to God. I didn’t think it right to complain to him, to tell him what I really think, after all he is the one in charge. But my mindset has changed. If I have had a very bad, no good day, telling someone about that day keeps me from being stuck in those feelings. When I share what happened and how I felt about it, those thoughts and feelings lessen. And as they dissipate, I become open to seeing things from God’s perspective.
In our grief avoidance, suffering avoidance culture we have become silent to our pain. We can have an ache we can’t identify because it has been so long since we reflected on the status of our heart. It is then helpful to take some time, some quiet time to sit and wonder with God. How do I feel? What is the cause of my pain? What do I need to notice and to express in order to practice lament? The process of lament begins to release the hurt and allow me to enter into God’s healing space. So, the key to not only loss, but also to lament is the spiritual practice of expressing our pain with Christ to receive the spiritual benefit. In fact, all spiritual practices are meant to be done with Christ, not alone. As we engage with him in his work in us, we receive his change in us. If we choose to lament on our own, well we will get on our own results.
So, what does lament look like? Our cultural message is to hide our hurt. I suspect most of us use polite prayers to speak to a holy God. We stuff our pain away thinking it is not acceptable to share what hurts with others and especially not with God. After all we don’t want to be perceived as complainers or whiners do, we? We think it disrespectful to let things all hang out. Turning to the psalms and acknowledging the authentic voice of David, a man after God’s own heart, we hear his honest words express a hurting heart. A few choice phrases might illustrate the point:
“Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.” Ps. 3:7b
“God, are you avoiding me? Where are you when I need you? Break the wicked right arms, break all the evil arms.” Ps. 10: 1, 15
“Make them become blind as bats, give them the shakes from morning to night.” Ps. 69: 23
“Let their tongues sting like a snake; the venom of a viper drips from their lips.” Ps. 140;3
David was not hesitant to tell God what he felt and how he thought God should act. In fact, there is an honesty and openness I find inviting. These words convey that there is no need to tidy up my conversation with God for God to hear me. At the end of these psalms of lament, after David expresses his honest thoughts, the result is a turning from angst to a trust in a benevolent God.
I have been listening to David Kessler, a foremost authority on grief. You do know we are all grieving now, don’t you? If not grief over the death of someone, then grief over the loss of the life we used to have. Tell God how you feel and what you are thinking. Allow your insides to be shown to God. What truth about yourself do you need to express to Christ in order to become open to trusting Christ’s truths?