I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit … (Lamentations 3:55)
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress … (Psalm 31:1)
Today’s readings include prayers of lament. Quite simply, a lament is a complaint and scripture is filled with prayers that complain to God. When I was a child and was taught the various ways to pray, lament was not included as one of the modes of prayer. Even though lament runs deep I the Judeo-Christian tradition, we modern folks have been loath to incorporate it into our faith practices. It doesn’t fit very neatly into our polite demeanor before God.
It is time to recover this particular language of prayer and vigorously embrace it. When our current worship book (Evangelical Lutheran Worship) came out some years back, it was good to see that all the psalms were included (in previous resources some of the strongly expressive lament psalms were omitted) and that there is now a section of lament hymns.
I bet you feel like lamenting in these days of the global pandemic. You cannot go to school or play baseball or participate in spring graduation. You cannot join your siblings in Christ at church or go your favorite places to hang out or visit your friends in their homes. Being locked down feels like being locked up. On top of all of this, neighbors around the globe are suffering from the coronavirus.
It is a good to complain about these things and to bring such complaint to God in prayer. Unprocessed grief or grief that isn’t expressed often gets channeled into an anger toward ourselves or others that is hurtful. The promise of lament is that expressions of grief are expressions of hope.
Jesus uttered a psalm of lament on the cross. It was an honest cry to God in a place of desolation. Jesus really died and really felt forsaken. There was no silver lining on that Friday, but three days later came Easter. Resurrection. The hope of the Gospel is that the God who dwells with us in times like these is also at work transforming us and bringing life out of death.
For faith practices you may want to pray a psalm of lament, sing a hymn of lament, or express these feelings through writing in a journal or painting a picture or through some other work of art, and remember that nothing separates us from the love of God in Christ our Lord.