Years ago, people wore black for long periods of time to signify mourning. How I wish there was an outward symbol now! How I wish that people would know a broken, grieving heart when they saw it!
Can we do our best to encourage this honesty? It’s biblical to lament. There are almost endless examples of this. God can handle our honesty, our anger, our pain, our sorrow, our questions, our emotions.
The Psalms are full of honest lament.
I am worn out from all my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
They fail because of all my foes.
-Psalm 6:6-7 (NIV)
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
-Psalm 13:1-2 (NIV)
Can we give permission to lament, as some trusted friends have given us? Here are some of their beautiful words, as written in sympathy cards and letters to us after our daughter Winnie died.
“It seemed like all those sympathy cards had all of grief figured out. But my initial thoughts of you both was that you were departing into unknown place of grief… I would never want to brush off the deep grief you all are feeling with some sort of canned optimism… I am lamenting with you. I’m sorry that this is the pilgrimage thrust upon you. It is exceedingly difficult. My prayer as I approach Jesus with puzzled reverence is that he would redeem in the way that he does.”
“Your pain and suffering are recognized and respected. Your pain and suffering are sanctifying. Yet I know you’d forego this further sanctification to have your children back in a heartbeat.”
“I have no answers. I weep with you. Thank you for your open, transparent heart. You are giving us the privilege of fulfilling the very law of Christ — ‘bear one another’s burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ.’ These burdens are too heavy to bear alone. You bore Winnie and Clive. Now we bear you. And we bear them with you in the name of Him who bore OUR griefs and carried our sorrows — Jesus, the man of sorrows acquainted with the bitterest grief. We love you. HE loves you beyond knowing.”
“I also pray that well-meaning people will not try to cheer you up or try to pull you out of where you are–may you continue to grieve, as I believe it keeps us connected to heaven and our eyes set on our real home.”
There are so many other words, too many to share. Words of encouragement and hope. Reminders of journeying with us and praying for us. Words of sorrow, and words saying that there are no words. We are so grateful to those who are acknowledging our sorrow and standing with us in this.
Lament is beautiful. It’s beautiful in its rawness, its honesty, its timelessness, its humanity.
Lament is exhausting. We don’t have a capacity to do this and only this. So there may be times we look almost normal. There are plenty of times our faces are not tear streaked, and we may even have smiles. There is lots of busyness and filling of time with mindless things. There is a time and place for both. We oscillate between the two, as we strive to function in normal life.
In lament, there is still hope. Most of the Psalms that are laments end with a hope & trust in the Lord, despite a lack of understanding.
What does lament look like in your life today?
Here are some songs of lament that have brought me so much comfort.