When we lament, what we long and pray and strive for is not just a resolution to the particular pain or grief we are feeling. Because of the great work of Jesus for us, in lament we stretch out for the end of all loss and brokenness.
As I continue to ruminate on Biblical lament, I want to clarify and develop what this practice is and what it is not. Lament is new for many people, including me, and this short post is intended to clear up confusion and reduce unhelpful caricatures.
Lament is Not Unusual
Judging by the Biblical record, lament is a common type of prayer for God’s people. Roughly one third of the Psalms contain aspects of lament, there is an entire book called Lamentations, and laments show up in other places in Scripture. The Israelites lamented their harsh treatment in Egypt (Exodus 2:23–25), Hannah lamented her barrenness (1 Samuel 1:10, 15), and Jesus lamented the rebellion in Jerusalem (Luke 13:34–35). Significantly, Jesus himself lamented on the cross (Matthew 27:46).
The existence of lament Psalms and the book of Lamentations show us that lament was not reserved for occasional, tragic events. Lament is appropriate in those drastic times, but it was also part of the ongoing, regular worship of God’s people. As those living under the weight of the curse, these portions of Scripture give us words for our groaning (Romans 8:22–23).
Lament is Not Natural
It doesn’t take much for humans to grumble against the Lord. From small frustrations and disappointments to large tragedies and sorrows, our impulse is to find fault.
When we meet hardship, our natural state is grumbling. But it takes faith to lament. While grief may be the trigger for lament, its foundation is the goodness and sovereignty of God. Bringing our anguish and mourning to God wouldn’t make sense if he weren’t listening, caring, powerful, and similarly grieving at the broken state of the world.
Lament is Not Grumbling
Lament is a difficult practice for some Christians because they’ve been told from their earliest days not to complain.