Try Lamenting

We are living in a time in which many people have hearts that feel very heavy—heavy with the loneliness of social isolation, heavy with the confinement of being sheltered in place, heavy with worries over contagious disease, heavy over daily reports of a rising death toll, heavy with the disappointments of disrupted plans, heavy with economic worries, heavy with job loss, heavy with the tumult of children stuck at home, and heavy with increased tensions with one another.

What are we to do when our hearts feel so heavy?

Sometimes we feel the pressure to maintain a “positive attitude.”  People tell us just to look on the good side, to keep a smile on our face, to ignore our worries, or that everything will work out.  But when our hearts are heavy, simply maintaining a “positive attitude” is not always or exclusively the best approach.

The Bible offers an alternative.  The Bible suggests that we lament.  It’s what Job did despite the criticism of his friends.  It’s what David did in many of the psalms.  It’s what Jeremiah did with an entire book titled Lamentations.  It’s even what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane.  When our hearts are heavy, it may well be the best thing we can do. 

I appreciate Mark Vroegop’s perspective on this.  In an article entitled “Dare to Hope in God,” he writes, “We step into this world with a cry.  Although none of us remembers the moment, the first sound we uttered after leaving the warm and protected confines of our mother’s womb was a loud protest.  We enter, wailing.  To cry is human….

“We don’t stop crying after birth.  It continues because the world is broken.  While tears and sorrow are part of our humanity, there is an often-neglected prayer language in the Bible for our travels through a broken world: lament….

“Lament is not the same as crying, however.  It’s different…. The Bible is filled with this song of sorrow.  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. 

“But lament is different than crying because lament is a form of prayer.  It is more than just the expression of sorrow or the venting of emotion.  Lament talks to God about pain.  And it has a unique purpose: trust.  It is a divinely-given invitation to pour out our fears, frustrations, and sorrows for the purpose of helping us to renew our confidence in God…. Laments turn toward God when sorrow tempts you to run from him.”

In his book Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, Vroegop adds, “Too many Christians either are afraid or refuse to talk to God about their struggles.  Whether because of shame, a fear of rejection, anxiety, or a concern of being irreverent, pain can give rise to a deadly prayerlessness.  Lament cracks the door open to talk to God again—even if it’s messy.”

            Ryane Williamson adds, “When we lose the ability to lament, we lose an opportunity to share with our God the things of this world that are breaking our hearts, and we risk becoming a quietly cynical people.”

If your heart is heavy over all that is going on, try lamenting; try pouring out to God your pain and sorrow and fear—even if it’s messy.

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