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Resting in Lament

by Curtis Zackery from Soul Rest: Reclaim Your Life. Return to Sabbath.

All too often, occurrences in life lead us to question why a certain thing happened, leaving us void of answers. Every day, either we or someone in our lives experience some loss or disruption of a dream. 

When we are in these places of confusion and pain, we often feel the need to express ourselves and release some of the pressure we’re feeling. One of the reasons that our response in these types of situations tends to be unhealthy or even harmful to ourselves or others is because we’ve forgotten how to lament. 

Lament is a passionate expression of grief or sorrow that helps us acknowledge our pain and mourn our reality. This type of intentional engagement with our pain and expression of our feelings doesn’t really exist in our culture. Most of us would much rather move on quickly and minimize the hurt. We’ve developed coping mechanisms that keep us from having to deal with the implications of how we feel and experience life together.

One of the places that should be the best for lament, but many times is void of it, is the church. The beauty of lament is that it allows us the freedom to lay our utter grief before God and know that He hears us. 

Because it is not present in many church cultures, however, many of us feel alienated and disconnected when we feel like we’re unable to bring this part of ourselves to the community. In a time when there are still great racial, political, and economic divides in our country, we need a space to feel supported and to go before the throne of God and open our hearts to Him—no matter how messy.

We see examples of lament throughout the narrative of Scripture. Psalm 13 offers a beautiful example of an exchange with God. In this psalm, the psalmist honestly and wholeheartedly pours out his feelings before God, and not all of them are uplifting. 

The psalmist expresses his confusion and disillusionment in the midst of his current situation: ‘How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” The writer is not a man exuding hopefulness. In his transparency, he is trusting the Lord to be able to handle his remarks and feels comfortable enough before the Lord not to hold back. 

In these few verses, the writer expresses his despair in his current reality and the fact that God does not seem present in it. Rather than resolving in what we would hope to be a happy ending, the writer simply states that God has dealt bountifully with him in the past and, for that reason, he will give Him the benefit of the doubt. Then the Psalm ends right there. 

Talk about a beautiful biblical example of lament. He acknowledges the power and goodness of God but honestly asserts that he sees no real immediate hope on the horizon. It is in this type of process that we can allow the honest space for God to minister to our hearts.

Real lament leads us to rest. We have lost the perspective that shows us the necessity of proper lament in our lives. When we make room for lament, we attempt to reach our bottom, intentionally. We create space to find the firm footing that accompanies our accurate understanding of our situation.

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