By Pastor David Werner
Lament is a form of prayer that is not often used or discussed. Lament psalms and prayers comprise about a third of the psalter and are earmarked by certain themes. Typically, biblical laments are a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. The psalmist who wrote the lament psalms cried out to God in times of extreme trouble or deep loss. Psalm 22 demonstrates the anguish and loneliness the author feels, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The purpose of biblical lament is threefold. Firstly, lament is used as a form of protest; a drawing of the reader’s or God’s attention to the wrong that the author sees. Second, lament is a way to process and vent emotions such as anger, distress, or frustration. Third, lament is a place to voice confusion in the form of questions, “how long, O LORD, why are you far from me, why have you allowed this to happen?”. For these, lament is an important part of prayer life.
Nowhere is the importance of lament better illustrated than in the aptly named book of Lamentations. Lamentations follows the destruction and fall of Jerusalem caused by the Babylonians. In the aftermath, the surviving remnant cries out in lament to God. Reading even a sampling of verses from Lamentations shows the pain and confusion the survivors of God’s chosen people feel. They feel abandoned and completely broken by God’s absence.
In chapter 3, the author expounds on the pain the people feel but also expresses hope on God’s character. The author says, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23). Amid unimaginable sorrow, the author leans into the unchanging love of God, recalling his ever-renewed mercies and places hope on God’s faithfulness.
In Lamentations, we see that God’s people are permitted and encouraged to lay all deep and raw emotions on Him who is able to shoulder them. Whatever our sorrow may be, as we learn to lament, we realize that God is big enough to handle our anger, hurt, and confusion. In our laments, he promises to show us new mercies daily, to strive with us in steadfast love, and to remain faithful always.