Holy Lament: A Worship Series for Lent Shared by the South-Central Wisconsin Synod of the ELCA
Week Four: Individual Lament
Prayer: Gracious God, our lives are a beautiful and sometimes terrifying mix of great joy and deep sorrow. When we grieve, remind us that no matter how personal our experience, we can still lean on the community of faith around us for hope and support. Inspire us to watch out for those in our midst who are in need of a word of encouragement this day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen
Reading: Psalm 13 (ELW Version) How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I have perplexity in my mind, and grief in my heart, day after day? How long shall my enemy triumph over me? Look upon me and answer me, O LORD my God; give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death; lest my enemy say, “I have defeated you,” and my foes rejoice that I have fallen. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart is joyful because of your saving help. I will sing to the LORD, who has dealt with me richly.
Reflection: In the Bible, laments take many forms. Sometimes a lament is made by an individual, talking about a personal affliction or situation. Sometimes a lament is communal – that is, it is a cry to the Lord on behalf of a community of people who have suffered some calamity together.
Calling something an “individual lament” can be a bit of a misnomer. Truly, when we grieve, we rarely do so in a vacuum. Even if a loss is deeply personal, those around us may still be touched by the sadness, the disappointment, or the loss. Too, when we lament it is good, as in right, meet, and proper, to do so in the company of others. God created human beings to be in relationship with each other. This companionship is meant to be enjoyed no matter what the circumstances. At its best, the Christian community is a place where we can laugh and sing together, and where we can mourn together as well.
Individual laments may speak of a sorrow that affects one person more deeply than it does others. The person struggling with an illness or debilitating condition surely feels a different sort of grief and loss than the caregivers around them. Likewise, caregivers feel a different sense of grief and loss than the one for whom they are caring. No grief, and likewise no lament, is the same for everyone. We experience times of lament in different ways. Thanks be to God that there are so many different examples of lament in scripture. As in today’s psalm, some may choose to lift up their grief and then immediately turn to words of hope and promise. Others may choose the path of Psalm 88, which we considered last week, and name in no uncertain terms the hurt and grief they are experiencing. Both are valid and holy ways to lament. What makes sense for you may not make sense for me; what is life-giving and helpful for me may not be life-giving and helpful for you.
Where we can find common ground is in the knowledge that lament is part of the life of faith. When a sibling in faith is crying out to God in sorrow or pain, we may not know exactly what they are feeling, but we may, in fact, know the territory. We can use the language of lament found in the psalms and elsewhere in scripture to meet our loved one where they are and offer companionship, healing, and hope.
Questions for Reflection: Do you prefer to grieve privately or with others? (Note, there is no wrong answer to this question…we all do this differently.) How can the psalms help you when you are mourning a personal loss?