Grief and loss are familiar in these days of the coronavirus pandemic. Pain, injustice, and suffering are knocking at our doors in ways we cannot ignore. The Bible shows us a way to meet this deep pain and suffering through the practice of lament. In this toolkit, you’ll find a host of resources to help you and your church understand what lament is and how to practice lament. As we lament individually and in community, let us be joined together through both our hope-filled expectations and our calls for God to act swiftly to bring forth God’s kingdom this day.
Why do we lament?
”In the Old Testament, talk of God is characterized by dialogical thinking. Lament creates space for this dialogue and moves the theology of suffering into interaction with the theology of celebration.Soong-Chan RahProphetic Lament
From the Bible, we learn much of lament. Recall David, Job, and Isaiah in their respective times of mourning. Their grief is symbolized with ashes and sackcloth, and marked with honest, anguished cries. In Scripture, too, we find the wailing women, professional mourners called to grieve in community. And there is Rachel, “weeping for her children” with “lamentation and bitter weeping” (Jeremiah 31:15). To these voices and tears, we add our own.
In the midst of a global pandemic, perhaps we recognize in a greater degree the need for Christ to come again. Life in quarantine has exposed the complexities of pain and suffering in the world. As a result, we have uncovered the rich tension of hope-filled expectation. We feel the pain and suffering that exists in the world, yet we know that Christ is Lord. We grieve the current order of the world, yet we believe that Christ will deliver us. The kingdom of God is here, but we have yet to see the new heaven and new earth that is coming.
Out of the ashes, we rise, for this is the way of the cross. We celebrate the resurrection of Christ and yearn for the day he makes all things new. But we cannot forget the pain and suffering of the crucified Christ, nor can we sidestep the aching of this world. We grieve and cry out to God; we lament. As we lament individually and in community, let us be joined together through both our hope-filled expectations and our calls for God to act swiftly to bring forth God’s kingdom this day.
Lament is an unfamiliar topic for many people. And, it can often feel uncomfortable, perhaps due to its foreignness or its honesty, or perhaps because lament forces us to come to terms with our grief and to sit in that hard space. As you begin—or continue—to think about and practice lament, it may be helpful to orient yourself through these resources.
Unchained: Generational Trauma and Healing
This one-hour Emmy-nominated documentary examines the lingering trauma handed down from the American slavery system. Through powerful stories we begin to understand the moral courage needed to face racism. Fill out a quick form for free access to the documentary and discussion guide.
Rediscovering biblical lament: Scott Cormode interview
Scott Cormode, professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, talks about looking to old and new faith practices of the church, leadership that begins by listening to longings and losses, and praying through psalms of lament. Listen to the podcast.
Articles and books
It’s possible that some of the provided resources, meant to help define and familiarize lament, have stirred up some feelings within you. The following resources are meant as an entrypoint into practicing lament.