A Lament

I began learning about lament a few years ago when I found myself thinking and feeling things that stood in opposition to what I knew to be true of God.

My reality and God’s Word contradicted one another and I didn’t know what to do with that. Saying what I was thinking and feeling out loud, or even writing them down, seemed impossible and reprehensible. What right did I have to give voice to those thing things? I was stuck and confused until I discovered the practice of lament. The Bible is full of them; I just hadn’t noticed before. As I read, the honesty of those who spoke them was stunning. Even uncomfortable. While I felt the need to rush to rebuke and correct my thoughts and feelings, the biblical speakers felt no compulsion to do the same. They knew that the God to whom they spoke was more than enough to take whatever they hurled at him. And that changed the way that they prayed. It changed the way that I pray.

As I learned to borrow their words and follow their example, I found the freedom to cry out in the hopelessness and despair of the moment. Lament is inherently an act of faith and hope in the one to whom I cry and so, almost always, that cry has led to a deeper joy and peace as he meets me where I am and ministers to my weary heart.

Learning to lament, for me, has been a precious and beautiful gift, so I wanted to share one with you. It’s one that I’ve written many times and in different ways over the past two years as I’ve longed more than ever for this world to be made right. Lament is a messy thing with a structure to it, boundaries lovingly laid by the grace of God. I’ve tried to keep them clear so you can follow along.

Address

You are the Holy One of God. In you alone is fullness of life, and so to you, I cry out. Hear my prayer, O Lord, for I am in need.

Complaint

Everywhere I look, things are broken. Deep within our hearts, there is a festering, a corruption, the curse of sin and death. We wound each other with our actions and our words and we wound this world that you have made. Even our best intentions fall short, hollowed out, riddled with imperfection. Creation itself cries out to you in groans of pain and madness. It is our betrayer and our revealer in its floods and its fires, its famines and earthquakes and hurricanes. We are powerless to contain or stand against it. And then there is the stealing of our breath itself. Breath weaponized in the hands of another or stolen by this virus that we cannot see, insidious, passed from one to another in the space of an exhale. How long, O Lord? Have you forgotten us? Why do you turn your face away? I am weary crying out for help; my throat is parched. Surely, I have no hope in this earth. No created space in which to find a rescue. For I share in the corruption. I am part of the disease.

Request

But you, O Lord, you bind up the brokenhearted. And you, O Lord, you set the captives free. You sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. Though to me this world seems beset by calamity within and without the hearts of men, to you there is no surprise, no thing that is out of your control or unable to be redeemed and transformed by a word from your mouth. You are God who does impossible things. Restore to me the joy of my salvation. Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. Turn my mourning into dancing, replace sackcloth and ashes with garments of praise. In you, the generations have put their trust and you have delivered them. They cried to you and were saved, their trust was not disappointed. Haste the day, O Lord, when my faith shall be sight. Do not let us stay in this place of unmet, unyielding longing forever but turn your face toward us, make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. Transform this broken world, these broken hearts. Heal the wound and lift the curse.

Trust

And I trust in you, I say, “You are my God.” I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours is thwarted. I will wait in quiet peace; I will rest in your salvation. For you are my refuge and my strength, my ever-present help in troubled waters.

‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and he will be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” – Revelation 21:3-5

What has God taught you about lament?

7 Comments

  1. Amy Young November 16, 2021

    Rachel, thank you for sharing this structure of a lament! It’s so helpful to have a guide, isn’t it. And to know that lament is a part of our rich heritage! If anyone would like to learn a bit more about laments, Global Trellis has a workshop called “The What and How of Lament.” Here is the description:
    You will cover:
    Where lament occurs
    The general pattern and structures of lament in the Bible
    Themes and questions of lament Psalms
    Why you need to lament
    How to lament using Psalms 42 and 43 (this part could be a mini- or halfday retreat)
    Guidelines for writing a lamenthttps://globaltrellis.com/shop/the-what-and-how-of-lament/

    1. Rachel Mutesi November 17, 2021

      This sounds great! Lament is something I always have room to grow in!

  2. Bayta Schwarz November 17, 2021

    For many years, I also shied away from some of those psalms. The raw emotion scared me and I felt so uncomfortable with how the psalmists were talking to God. But walking through a very dark time in my life, I came to appreciate these so much, and like you, the way I pray has changed.

    1. Rachel Mutesi November 17, 2021

      I’m so thankful those Psalms and prayers are there, ready for us when we need them. It was such a gentle reminder to me that God really does understand and care about the things that we walk through.

  3. Michele November 17, 2021

    First, that is a beautiful lament- thanks for sharing!
    Second, I have appreciated the Psalms of lament and the principle of doing it for a few years, but only this last year actually wrote one out myself, and then ended up writing another one. The first was in the April retreat and it was a beautiful part of that time for me, much-needed and a helpful release. The second was during an Interlude Debriefing retreat through Barnabas (which I highly recommend to anyone needing a debrief time). This was a few months later and I found the sources of pain the same, but more pronounced. There was a lot of hard, ugly crying as I wrote it, and I couldn’t read one line aloud in my small group without my voice cracking. It was so raw it was embarrassing to share, honestly, and yet I knew I needed to. Several weeks later, kind of out of nowhere, the Lord spoke to me about that lament, saying that to Him it was beautiful worship. That kind of took me aback. It didn’t feel like worship; it felt like complaint- which I’ve always considered the opposite of worship. But it was an offering to Him and didn’t end without coming back into agreement with His heart in spite of the pain and confusion, and He took it as worship. -That was a huge lesson for me this year, and one I’ll take into whatever trials lie ahead.

    1. Rachel Mutesi November 17, 2021

      Thank you so much for sharing that Michelle! What a beautiful and precious truth. It makes me think that my view and understanding of worship is so small compared to God’s. And His is richer and more beautiful and more fully encompassing than I so often imagine.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.