Holy Lament: A 5 Week Series for Lent Shared by the South-Central Wisconsin Synod of the ELCA

Week Three: Laments from Depths

Prayer: God of mercy, sometimes our grief feels too heavy to bear. In those moments, remind us of your presence. Give us ears to hear the good news that nothing in this world has the power or strength to come between us and the love you have for us in Christ Jesus. Give us the courage to offer our lament to you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Reading: Psalm 88 (ELW Version) O LORD my God, my Savior, by day and night I cry to you. Let my prayer enter into your presence; incline your ear to my lamentation. For I am full of trouble; my life is at the brink of the grave. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I have become like one who has no strength; lost among the dead, like the slain who lie in the grave, whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. You have laid me in the depths of the pit, in dark places, and in the abyss. Your anger weighs upon me heavily, and all your great waves overwhelm me. You have put my friends far from me; you have made me to be abhorred by them; I am in prison and cannot get free. My sight has failed me because of trouble; LORD, I have called upon you daily; I have stretched out my hands to you. Do you work wonders for the dead? Will those who have died stand up and give you thanks? Will your lovingkindness be declared in the grave, your faithfulness in the land of destruction? Will your wonders be known in the dark or your righteousness in the country where all is forgotten? But as for me, O LORD, I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you. LORD, why have you rejected me? Why have you hidden your face from me? Ever since my youth, I have been wretched and at the point of death; I have borne your terrors and am helpless. Your blazing anger has swept over me; your terrors have destroyed me; they surround me all day long like a flood; they encompass me on every side. My friend and my neighbor you have put away from me, and darkness is my only companion.

Reflection: This week we turn our attention to the “big” laments that are a part of every believer’s life. These are the times and situations where we find our world turning inside and upside down. A devastating diagnosis, job loss, the end of a marriage, the death of a loved one, whether at the end of a long and well-lived life, or much too soon. Such times are disorienting and filled with deep grief. Sometimes we don’t know how to feel or what to say, or how to move forward with life when so much has been lost, when so much has changed.

It is at such times that some worry that our grief is too great for God. Some worry that it is inappropriate to share what is really on our hearts, especially when what is on our hearts isn’t quiet acceptance, but confusion and even rage. It is here where the scriptures, and many of the psalms in particular, can help give voice to the deep stirrings of our hearts. Consider the example of Psalm 88, which we read as part of worship today. If you read through other psalms of lament, such as Psalm 22 or Psalm 130, you will notice that at some point the psalm-writer turns from lament to a moment, however brief, of trust in God’s steadfast love and mercy. Not so with Psalm 88. Psalm 88 is rage, lament, grief, and sorrow from beginning to end. It is raw. It is real. It ends in dust and shadows and loneliness. And this psalm made it into the Bible! This suggests that those moments, those big moments of grief and sadness, are also held in God’s loving hands. Although the writer of Psalm 88 doesn’t explicitly utter words of trust, the fact that the prayer was offered up suggests that at the very least he or she believed that someone was listening.

No grief, no sorrow is too great for the God who so loves this world. Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead are redemptive not only in terms of sin, but in all forms of suffering. We cling to the cross, we cling to Christ, because we trust that no matter how low our hearts, no matter how great our grief, how hot our rage and confusion burn, none of it is strong enough to get between us and the love God has for us. Hold fast to this hope, even in your moments of heartbreak and loss. Christ is with you, Christ can and will hold you, and your lament.

Questions for Reflection: What is the most helpful thing someone has said or done for you when you were facing a time of deep grief and mourning? Where do you find hope when you are grieving? How have you felt or experienced God’s presence in times of lament and sorrow?