Since fall 2014 I’ve been learning the meaning of lament. For weeks on end I’ve cried out (and continue to) to a good God who has the power to change a given situation in my life; a situation in my immediate family that’s come upon me with swift sorrow and incisive pain.
Here’s what I now know lament means
First, I have permission to complain loud and long to God with honesty. I do.
Second, I can ask Him to do specific things: heal, conquer, part my Red Sea, fix things! I worship, though most days, worship takes the form of silence and staring hard at the walls in my office. To do all that though, I’ve needed to own my deepest disappointments and my sin. I work really hard at not painting some shellac over the desperation that marks my whys, hows and howls.
Finally, I must count on the Spirit to deposit mustard seeds of faith into my heart, every day, so that I can lament: do I believe that God is good and can change my situation at any moment?
Here’s the other thing I’m learning about lament
Joy is actually an integral, essential part of the lamenting process.
Which brings me to this day – Good Friday.
Joy in lament. Jesus’ story holds them both and this is the only reason why I can hold both together within my worship and my life. Jesus celebrated the coming kingdom and yet he wept over Jerusalem and in the garden. And on the cross He cried out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The Jews standing near the cross would have known the entirety of the text that followed Jesus’ cry. That cry is the first line of Psalm 22, and Jesus’ words would have led them into David’s assertion of abandonment, desperate suffering and need for deliverance. They would have remembered David’s expression of trust: “He has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” They would have recalled David’s final joyful praise: “God has done it.”
Jesus’ death and resurrection invite me to face my pain and move towards that pain, knowing that I will never be overcome by it. On the cross, Jesus’ lament cry became mine . . . both its grief and its joy. It is finished.
By Renee James
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