“A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance”
~ Ecclesiastes 3:4
There are commands in the Bible such as Philippians 4:4, commanding us as believers to “rejoice in the Lord always,”and in case we missed it the first time Paul adds an echo, “again I will say, rejoice.” Yet, there are also commands such as Romans 12:15, to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
Here is the unique collision, to rejoice and to weep, when needed. Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes that there are seasons for both. How do we do this well? When we need to weep and long to weep how do we weep/ mourn well? We lament.
In a recent article on Desiring God, lament was described as:
Lament is God’s people desperately crying in faith to their Lord until God shows himself to be the faithful one he has promised to be.
Webster dictionary defines lament as:
to express sorrow, mourning, or regret for often demonstratively
We see examples of a holy lament throughout the Bible, there is a whole book dedicated to this theme, the book of Lamentations. Also throughout the Psalms we see example after example of lamenting before the Lord. Psalms such as 142, where we see David crying out to the Lord as he is hiding in a cave. To lament is to be honest before the Lord with where you are, how you are hurting, how you are struggling to see Him rightly. To lament rightly is to in a holy manner weep before the Lord.
In an article for the ERLC (Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission), looking at Psalm 142 they list out four points in learning to lament:
- Turn to God
- Cry for Help
- Speak the Truth
- Trust the Lord
I have learned that in lamenting I must:
- Be Honest with Myself: I must admit, I don’t like this step, perhaps because I am a dude and we don’t like trying to figure out our hearts. However, in order to lament rightly I must look into my heart, be honest with myself, with how I am feeling and deal/ wrestle with it not suppress it.
- Be Honest with the Lord:Once we are honest with ourselves we can then be honest before the Lord. Lets be honest, He already knows, how we are feeling, He knows how we are wrestling, He knows our concerns and hurts more than we know. So tell Him all of it. He is big enough to handle it. If you are frustrated, tell Him. If you are hurting tell Him. He already knows!
- Focus on the Lord:The point of lamenting rightly is to pour out our hearts before the Lord. In focusing on Him, we are turning to the One who already knows what we are going through and to the One alone who is able to hear and answer. Who alone is able to heal the hurting, answer the searching, and restore the broken.
- Remember Who He is: Once we have set our focus on the Lord it is then that we begin to remember who He is. That He is good and does good (Romans 8:28); that when we cast all our burdens on Him for He will sustain us (Psalm 55:22), that it is He alone who satisfies the longing soul (Psalm 107:9), that we can wait on Him and trust on Him for He is our refuge (Psalm 62:8), that when we wait on the Lord it is He who restores our strength (Isaiah 40:31), and that it is the Lord who helps us, strengthens us and upholds us (Isaiah 41:10).
Lamenting rightly reestablishes my trust in the Lord, taking my eyes off self and placing them onto Him who is able to do abundantly more than I could ever ask (Ephesians 3:20). It is here that I am able to begin to rejoice again in the Lord, no matter my circumstances.
Lament is a cry of belief in a good God, a God who has His ear to our hearts, a God who transfigures the ugly into beauty. Complaint is the bitter howl of unbelief in any benevolent God in this moment, a distrust in the love-beat of the Father’s heart.
~ Ann Voskamp