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

Week One: What is Lament?

Prayer: Loving God, the prophets and psalm-writers and countless other people of faith have given us an example of how to hold our grief before you through songs of lament.  Hear our cries this day.  Give us the courage to name our deepest sorrow and to hand it over to you.  Heal our wounded hearts and give us peace.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen

Reading: Lamentations 3:19-26 (NRSV) The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall!  My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.  But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”  The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.  It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Reflection What is lament?

The Bible is filled with examples of faithful people of God offering up sorrowful, and at times even angry, prayers to God. “How long, O Lord?” (Psalm 13) “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22) “Out of the depths I cry to you…” (Psalm 130). Even Jesus laments over Jerusalem and weeps at the death of a friend. To lament, to grieve, to weep – these are all part of the life of faith.

Too often, we are too quick to push aside the uncomfortable feelings of grief and loss. We tell crying children, “It’s ok, don’t cry.” We urge friends, and ourselves, to “get over” our losses, however great or small they may be. We have lost, in some ways, the spiritual discipline of lament. That is, simply acknowledging the grief that is part of everyday life, holding it, and then placing it gently (or forcefully!) in God’s hands. Sometimes we even feel guilty over our experiences of grief – we tell ourselves that our loved one wouldn’t want us to be sad; we remind ourselves that others have it far worse; we try to pretend it doesn’t matter.

The problem is – all those little griefs, sorrows, and losses don’t simply go away. We may push them aside, pretend we are too strong or don’t have time for them – but they nearly always find their way back to the forefront. Whether it is unexpected tears at a sappy TV commercial or our bodies actually becoming physically ill – grief, like water, finds a way.

During this season of Lent we will explore some of the various kinds of lament found in scripture. We will consider what it means to sit with our grief, rather than try to push it aside. We will see that many, many faithful believers have wrestled with grief, sorrow, and questions for God about why the innocent must suffer. We will learn that lament is one of the more faithful things we can do. When we approach God with honesty and humility, and we admit that some things are too big for our hearts to bear, we will find there not a disapproving God, but one who weeps with us. We will find a God who can take our grief and disappointment and transform it into holy joy and renewed hope.

We will learn, ultimately, that Jesus’ death on the cross – the place this season of Lent leads us to – is the reason we never mourn as those without hope.

Questions for Reflection: What comes to mind when you hear the word lament?  How comfortable are you with the concept of lament, whether as an individual or as a community?  Do you feel lament is an important spiritual discipline?  Why or why not?