Earlier this year, I went to a fantastic concert for the band Rend Collective. For those of you that don’t know, Rend Collective’s songs are typically full of joy and energy. In fact, at one part of the concert the lights were cut and, once the lights came back on, the band members were all wearing panda heads.
Yeah, it threw me through a loop as well.
They explained it by saying that joy was a fruit of the Spirit, not seriousness, and boy does this band show Joy. However, not all of the concert was, to paraphrase the lead singer, perfectly suited for a nine-year-old girl (yes, that is how he described their show). There was a moment though where the tone was completely different.
It was a time not of joy and dancing, but of lament and crying out to God. (At this point, I would highly encourage you to go find their song “Weep with Me” on YouTube and listen to the story behind it as well). It was a very beautiful and sobering moment, and one that I have been thinking about since.
We Need to Lament
How often do we take the time to lament? I’m not talking about complaining about hardships or bitterness towards the way things are. I am talking about pouring your hurts and burdens out before God. This lament is not something that we are that accustomed to doing. It is very easy to complain, and it is very easy to bury our feelings. What is less easy is to let our hearts cry out to God.
Now, I am not saying that we don’t do this privately. It is much easier to cry out in pain to God in the shower than it is in a church on Sunday. It is much easier to sing about God’s love than it is to sing about His providence in the midst of trial. Honestly, lamenting with others is just uncomfortable for many. Being vulnerable enough to admit pain does not come naturally.
Regardless, it is a necessary part of life. I don’t think that anyone would deny that life is hard and full of pain and hardships. Even the most die-hard Christian will suffer pain. Actually, I would go as far to say that especially the most die-hard Christian will suffer. The Bible is full of godly people expressing their pain and pouring it out before God. We have an entire book of the Bible named after it after all.
In addition, if we look at the Psalms (in particular Book III which is made up of Psalms 73-89), we see the Psalmist crying out to God time and time again, pouring out his grief and frustration. This hurt is common to all people, and the need to express it as well.
How to Lament
Part of the problem is that we don’t know how to lament. We know how to complain and be bitter. We know how to fume with anger and to let it fester, but we do not know how to properly pour out these desires before our God.
Cry out to God: Ultimately, our pleas are to go before God. I do not mean that we should not tell others about our pain, in fact, I am saying quite the opposite. However, if we just bring our complaints to man, what is the purpose of being a Christian. God is the one who hears us and cares for us perfectly, how can we not cast “all of [our] anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7, ESV).
Cry out publicly: It is one thing to go before God in the quiet of your bedroom and cry out to Him. It is another to gather with fellow believers and all together cry out to Him, yet that is exactly what we should do. We should weep with those among us who are hurting (Romans 12:15), we should cry over the state of the world and over sin. There is something special about joining in on this type of worship with others.
What Lament is Not
Our laments are not an anger at God for the way things are. If that is what we are doing, we are not lamenting, but rather holding a court in our hearts where we are trying to take God’s place. Rather, it is a clinging to who God is, even though at times we may not see how His character is present in the midst of turmoil. We don’t scream at God and blame Him, rather we cry out for relief and trust that our sovereign God is able to sustain us and use all things for His glory and our good.
Lamenting is not complaining for the sake of complaining. If we are just complaining about our situation (as much as we may feel justified in that complaining), then we have missed the point. Lament needs to be pointed back to God. It needs to appeal to Him for His grace and mercy. Complaining is commonplace and can reveal an idol of our hearts. Lamenting is an appeal to the One who cares about us (1 Peter 5:7).
The End Goal of Lament
Our lament must not stay in lament. This is one of the biggest dangers that may keep us from lamenting properly. We are not called to sit weeping and to feel nothing else but sorrow. In fact, I would say that is the complete opposite of biblical lament. At some point, we will have to look up and see that the God we serve is one of compassion and who cares.
We see His sovereignty and His might, and we appeal to Him on behalf of who He is. We pray for deliverance and ask for the God of all comforts to comfort us in our affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). And then, because we know who our God is, we praise Him from the midst of our storms.
Cry out to the Lord and make your concerns known to Him. Join in the choir of the Palmists, and of Jeremiah, and of Job, and of all the Saints. Lament for the way things are, but shout praises to the Lord from our lament.