For a good portion of my life, I didn’t think that lament belonged in the church.
Christians, I believed, were happy-clappy, smiling-all-the-time, “I’ve got the river of life flowing out of me!” type of people. As I’ve written for SheLoves before, the unfortunate result of this misconception was that I didn’t cry for almost seven years.
But then, dam of all dams, I broke. I wailed. I pounded my fists and cried big tears and I began to admit that brokenness existed within me and outside of me, and that this brokenness was not necessarily a bad thing. This brokenness meant that I was letting myself feel the beauty and the pain all around me.
Perhaps for the very first time, I began to see my desperate need for lament, just as I began to see the corporate need for lament that exists for followers of Jesus.
Tears, I realized, were a good and holy thing.
Is it the same for you? Have your tears been a holy balm of healing for you and the world around you?
With all that’s going on in our world today – continued hate crimes toward our brothers and sisters of color, escalating conflict, an overwhelming refugee crisis and for Americans, a world leader whom many of us are terrified to see in office–there exists a need for corporate and individual lament.
That’s why I’m eager for us to enter into discussion with each other through Soong-Chan Rah’s latest book, Prophetic Lament.
“In the midst of a crisis,” Rah writes, “Lamentations points toward God and acknowledges his sovereignty regardless of the circumstances” (43). We, collectively as human beings across the world, are in the midst of crisis. We need not pry the headlines of the morning paper or our latest social media feeds in order to see the unrest alive and well around each one of us.
What would it look like for us to be a people marked by lament?
What would it look like for us, as sisters united by Christ, to voice holy complaints and protests and grief aloud, to each other and to the world around us?
More than anything, as Rah walks the reader through the book of Lamentations (further buffering a biblical argument), we are given permission to lament. We are encouraged to deal with the reality of the world around us, with the reality of brokenness and pain and injustice. We are begged to bring untold stories to light (p. 50), and to not ignore pain and suffering and death any longer–but with compassion and justice, we are exhorted to step into action. We cannot be bound by fenced apathy any longer.
But here’s the thing: “We” does not mean that we as individuals all do our own thing from the comfort of [our] separate dwelling places. “We” means that we become we, doing this we together, for “… suffering is endured by the entire community. It is a communal experience” (p. 101). To be blunt, for those of us who are white, this may be a tricky thing to step into; a shift from the personal to the corporate is required, which may be far from the individualized worship experience of the white evangelical church.
How has lament figured its way into your faith community?
Regardless of where you are now and of where you come from, let’s agree to move forward together: when we lament, when we appropriately respond to suffering, when we recognize that God is sovereign, when we include and feel and empathize with the voice of those who are suffering, we become hope-filled truth tellers.
And I don’t know about you, but when the “when” of lament comes–for it most certainly will–I want to be a hope-filled truth teller.
What has this book called out of you?
Has anything surprised you?
Do you have a quote or idea from this book that you keep chewing on?
We’d love to hear! If you haven’t read the book yet, no problem. Join us as we think about lament together.
In March, we will be reading Blood Brothers: The Dramatic Story Of A Palestinian Christian Working For Peace In Israel, by Elias Chacour.