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7 & 8 August 2021 (Pastoral Page) IT’S OK TO LAMENT

By Asst Ps Patrick Chan Yin


As our country goes back to Phase 2 Heightened Alert and faces the ongoing uncertainties and challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic (especially its impact on our emotional and mental health), I must confess that I felt discouraged and frustrated over the past few weeks. All the plans I was looking forward to, had to be either thrown out of the window or changed. I find myself going to the Lord and lamenting, “How long, O Lord, how long will this pandemic last? I am getting tired!”


And you know what? It’s actually ok to lament before the Lord. Lament is not the same as crying. It is quite different and is uniquely Christian.


The Bible is actually filled with laments. Over a third of the Psalms are laments. The book of Lamentations weeps over the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus lamented in the final hours of His life (Matt. 27:46; cf. Psa. 22:1).


But lamenting is different than crying because lamenting is a form of prayer. It is more than just the expression of sorrow or the venting of emotion. When we lament, we talk to God about our pain. And it has a unique purpose: trusting in God. A lament is a divinely-given invitation for us as human beings to pour out our fears, frustrations, and sorrows to our creator and sovereign God for the purpose of helping us to renew our confidence in Him.


Four Elements of Lament [1]

Most laments feature four essential elements, as Psalm 13 illustrates:


Turn to God. Often a lament begins by an address to God: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1). The point is that the person in pain chooses to talk to God about what is happening.


Bring your complaint. Every lament features some kind of complaint: “How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:2). More than a sinful rehearsing of our anger, biblical lament humbly and honestly identifies the pain, questions, and frustrations raging in our souls.


Ask boldly for help. Seeking God’s help while in pain is an act of faith: “Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him,’ lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken” (Psalm 13:3–4). Unremitting sorrow can create a deadly silence as we give in to despair (“there’s no hope”) or denial (“everything’s fine”). But lament invites us to dare to hope in God’s promises as we ask for his help.


Choose to trust. This is the destination for our laments. All roads lead here: “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:5–6). More than the stages of grief, this prayer language moves us to renew our commitment to trust in God as we navigate the brokenness of life.


Learn to Lament [2]

Since life is full of sorrows and the Bible is clear about the plan of God, we as Christians, should regularly talk to God about our sorrows and struggles. Christians should learn to lament.


One obvious way to start would be to regularly read the lament psalms. Start with Psalms 10, 13, 22, and 77. And then move to the other 40 plus laments in the book of Psalms. You will find lament psalms for personal grief (Psa. 6, 31) and corporate suffering (Psa. 12, 44). There are laments for moments of repentance (Psa. 25, 130) and for times when you long for justice (Psa. 94). As you read these psalms, certain phrases will become your own and you will probably be surprised how connected you are to the words you read.


Another approach would be to study a lament psalm by looking for each of the four elements mentioned above: turning to God, bringing your complaint, asking boldly, and choosing to trust. Once you find examples of each element, consider writing your own lament. See if you can follow the flow of the text as you tell God about your own struggle. Remember each psalm was written by a real person with real problems. Writing your own lament beautifully combines rich theology with real emotions.


Lament is the prayer language for God’s people as we live in a world marred by sin. It is how we talk to God about our struggles, sorrows, and pains as we renew our hope in His sovereign care. To cry is human, but to lament is Christian. So, it’s really ok to lament before the Lord (picture God giving you a pat on the back).

[1] Adapted from Mark Vroegop, “Dare to Hope in God” – https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/dare-to-hope-in-god [2] Adapted from Mark Vroegop, “Dare to Hope in God” – https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/dare-to-hope-in-god

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