It’s not often that I have participated in lament as a form of worship. In face, I can probably count on two fingers how many times I’ve done it. If you want a feel-good service to bring you comfort, then a lament service is definitely not the way to go.
Tonight’s lament was centered around the conflict in the Ukraine. We reminded ourselves that just because all the atrocity is happening half a world away doesn’t mean that it doesn’t belong to us. As a part of the same family of believers, we find that their struggle is our struggle, their grief is our grief, their loss is our loss.
To lament is to speak honestly to God and say, “This is who I am. This is how I feel. This is who You are. Please act on our behalf.”
The Bible is full of lament, particularly the Psalms and the book of Lamentations. It’s not unusual to hear the psalmist or the prophet cry out, “How long, O Lord? Will you wait forever?”
It is a heart’s cry put into words. It is spoken grief. It is the language of sorrow that we bring to the Man of Sorrows who was acquainted with grief and crushed beneath the burden of our iniquities and by whose stripes we are healed.
But there’s always a turning point. It usually happens when the writer or speaker remembers the steadfast love of God, the hesed. My favorite definition from Michael Card of hesed is when someone from whom you have the right to expect nothing gives you everything instead.”
We speak not in a grumbling, complaining way like the Israelites of old who questioned the character of the God who had brought them out of slavery, through the Red Sea, and provided manna and quail in abundance. We pray boldly because we know God keeps all His promises, and we come to the throne of grace with confidence, knowing He will act on our behalf.
If you want to learn more about the ancient art of lament, check out Michael Card’s book A Sacred Sorrow. In the meantime, we should lament with the people of Ukraine and intercede on their behalf with all the hope that God does not slumber nor sleep but is near to the broken-hearted and to those crushed in spirit.