How do you deal with loss and grief in your life? We are going to look at the practice of Lament – honest dialogue with God.
For the most part of 2020-2021, there have been changes in circumstances for every one of us. Collectively we have faced uncertainties and as individuals this has meant losses and griefs of different kinds. We might have had to walk away from a situation because of pain. We may have been bereaved through the loss of a loved one or loss of a job. There are also ‘smaller’ losses. Such as the loss of fellowship at church or Christian groups, and socialising with friends at the mall.
Stages of grief
Kubler-Ross writes of the five stages of grief, following the loss of a loved one. Whilst these stages are common to all of us, our progression through them is not identical. I have seen elements of these stages playing out through my experiences of loss, trauma, being sinned against or hurt by others.
As a follower of Jesus, I am learning more about praying God’s word back to Him and using the language of Scripture to help me honestly dialogue with God. God loves his children to speak truthfully with him, after all He knows it already!
It can be deeply helpful emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to write or speak out our thoughts and feelings, turning them into prayer to God.
Getting real with God
Some people journal and write a letter to God, others may prayer walk, praying aloud freely. Whichever way is best for us at the time, the vital part is that we are real with God about our experiences. Especially about our feelings and emotions. We can give these thoughts and feelings to God. Trusting them into His care and then reminding ourselves of aspects of His character that we need to hold onto by faith as we wait for Him to answer our cry for help or to meet us in our pain.
The biblical practice of lament
Psalm 77 has an unknown author who pens a Lament Psalm, giving us a pattern for openly talking to God. In reminding ourselves of God’s sovereignty, faithfulness and other features of His character that are important for us to cling to, our faith is simultaneously strengthened as we persevere in trusting Him through painful, confusing times.
The Psalmist begins by crying out to God, asking for help. He prays, groans, and remembers God and previous years as well. His ‘soul is troubled’, he is distressed and cannot be comforted as he wrestles with questions (Verses 1-6). Nevertheless, he chooses to voice aloud these questions about God’s special covenant promises, which are linked to God’s character and care of his chosen people (Verses 7-9).
However, his thoughts then take a different direction, with a new perspective (Verse 10). He remembers stories in his people’s history (Old Testament) of God’s mighty works acts and miracles. He chooses to focus on these, recalling them to mind and using them in his prayer to God (Verses 11-12).
As he thinks about God’s miracles and mighty works his prayer turns to praising God’s character (verse 13-14). His faith is strengthened as he does this. He even asks a rhetorical question in his praise (verse 13)! In answering this, he then poetically describes God’s great rescue of his people from Egypt, through the parting of the Red Sea as they were led by Moses and Aaron (Verses 15-20).
The psalm ends seemingly abruptly, although this of course is deliberate. The last two verses explain how God led the people through the sea, by using the people’s leaders and his “footprints were not seen”. The author reminds himself that God’s presence was evident, although unseen. God’s way can be trusted because He is ever-present and active.
Lament throughout scripture
Other ‘lament psalms’ are scattered throughout the whole book of the Psalter (i.e. Psalms 10,13, 22, 42 & 43). Additionally, the book of Lamentations is so-called because of its theme of lament.
Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane demonstrates this same pattern of raw honesty in prayer to his Father God. The fact that God’s word and Jesus himself openly use this practice in prayer shows us that it is worth engaging in!
Acknowledging out loud before God our loss, naming the emotions we are experiencing and openly talking to God about the situation. Where words fail us, we can pray through the psalms or Lamentations and other scripture to give verbal expression to our emotions and feelings.
Lamenting before God
When we cry out to God, praying or groaning, God hears and listens to our words spoken and unspoken. We can move through our pain by expressing it to God towards faith and trust as we also remember His promises, His faithfulness shown in the past, and specific examples in our own lives or in the lives of others. As we pray and are in conversation with God, we do need to remember to quieten ourselves to read His word and listen for God’s Spirit to remind us of specific Biblical truths that apply to us in that instance. As we spend time considering God’s character, promises and miracles, our spirits will be enriched and our faith will grow and deepen.
Lament as a style of prayer may take time to develop and adjust to. The resources below are worth looking at and making use of:
Dealing with loss -downloadable resource (Scripture Union South Africa).
Stories that shape us podcast: Grief (Scripture Union South Africa).
Lament. A prayer for times like these