A Service of Lament

A Service of Lament

Intro Slide:

The “Church Calendar”  

la·ment: a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.

Provocative Tweet:  Approximately 70 percent of the Psalms are laments. Approximately 0 percent of the top 150 CCLI songs (songs sung most in churches) are laments.”  -Michael Gungor

One person responded to that…

 “Why would we have to lament? We have Jesus!”:

Perhaps the simplest way of understanding lament is that

it is an expression of human experience.

It is part of creaturely life in a broken world. -Katie Clum

personal examples and how my gut reacted to these experiences:

  • Las Vegas shooting (58 dead, 850 injured)
  • Haiti sex trafficking compound that they invaded and broke up…locked stalls.
  • Florida School Shooting…17 victims
  • Family Friend who was the children’s pastor when I was a child….killed himself this week.

My response: I feel sick to my stomach. I don’t want to trust God. I have a lot of questions. I feel more doubtful of God’s sovereignty, his love, his goodness.

What am I to do with that (those thoughts and feelings)? The biblical answer: LAMENT.

So what exactly is Lament? Our definition so far is…

la·ment: a passionate expression of grief or sorrow

but that is so obviously lacking. Just telling people I feel bad or depressed or have questions is unlikely to change anything for me.

The key is WHO we are expressing our sorrow to and HOW we choose to live after expressing ourselves.

Biblically, lament is not just a feeling of deep sorrow, mournfulness or regret,

it is an action on the part of the believer

 to articulate those feelings in the presence of God.

-Katie Clum

The Reason we express  our sorrow to God: to be known by him completely. It is for the health of our relationship with Him.

example: me expressing to Katie that I don’t want to be a Dad sometimes.

Principle in this: Transparency is an essential part of relationships

…because you cannot be known otherwise.

What happens if we are not transparent with each other in relationship?

Answer: the relationship becomes shallower because we are known less.

(true with me and Katie, certainly true with me and God)

Biblical examples of expressing lament to God:

Psalm 13:1-2

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
 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 22:1-2

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

…sighing has become my daily food; my groans pour out like water. Job 3:24

How lonely sits the city That was full of people! She has become like a widow Who was once great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces Has become a forced laborer! Lamentations 1:1

So we see that expressing our feelings to God is an essential part of proper Lament, but there is a second, insanely important part of lament.

Christianity is a religion for those who are wretched.

The believer finds a force in Christianity that is elevating,

but elevation comes in the midst of suffering.

-Katie Clum

More specifically…

Sincere lament requires full acknowledgement of the sorrow

in order to move the despair and grief towards hope and trust in God.

Purposes of Lament:

  1. Total transparency with God is essential for having a healthy relationship with Him.
  2. After recognizing how we and others fall short of God’s design we are aware of our need for Him. We then must choose to place our hope and trust in Him.

If that is the proper way to handle grief, confusion, doubt, anger towards God etc. What would be some improper ways?

  1. Not allowing ourselves to feel and express lamentable things.
  2. Wallowing in self-expression of grief with no intention of surrendering and trusting God.

Examples of proper lament from the Psalms:

Psalm 109:1-5

Be not silent, O God of my praise!
For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me,
    speaking against me with lying tongues.
They encircle me with words of hate,
    and attack me without cause.
In return for my love they accuse me,
    but I give myself to prayer.[a]

Notice how David expresses himself to God but also turns to God.

Psalm 5:1-3

 Give ear to my words, O Lord;
    consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry,
    my King and my God,
    for to you do I pray.

To you, O Lord, I cry,
    and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
“What profit is there in my death,[d]
    if I go down to the pit?[e]
Will the dust praise you?
    Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
    Lord, be my helper!” Psalm 30:8-10

The 5 verses of Psalm 13 are a great example of the proper process of lament…

Psalm 13

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
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?

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.

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.

That is what a relationship with God looks like. It is transparent and honest…nothing is hidden or held back from God. But God is who David turns to in these situations. God is his “King”, his “refuge”, his “hope” (words used all throughout David’s songs)

The remainder of the service is organized to take us through this process 2 step process.

  1. we are going to express our “laments” to God
  2. we are going to turn to Him.

I don’t want us to rush into the second part of lament though. Because expressing our questions and doubts and frustrations to God is less common in many churches than declaring our hope and trust in Him, we are going to start the music with a time of just instrumental music for you to think about (and let God bring to mind) things you want to lament to him about.

Those are more “categories”. Some specific things could be,

  • questioning God. This could be….his Love, Sovereignty, Power, Goodness, Justice etc.
  • the death of Christians around the world.
  • the moral demise of a city or nation
  • someone you care about who is not seeking God.

Some Reasons to lament:

Psalm 69:   Being publicly ostracized or unjustly shamed (specifically for living righteously)

Psalm 51: Guilt and shame for personal sin

Psalm 38 or 41: Physical ailment

Psalm 88: Depression/despair

Psalm 71: Afflictions of old age

Psalm 143: Oppression or victimization

Benediction for the end of the service:

 Matthew 5:2, “Blessed are the meek and those who mourn” -Jesus

It is better to go to the house of mourning
    than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
    and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
    for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
    but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. Ecclesiastes 7:2-4