“A Time to Mourn”: How Do We Lament?

February 15, 2022 | Andrew Zakhari

As we continue our study in Lamentations on Sundays, the question we must answer is,

“How do we lament?”

In studying the laments in Scripture, Pastor and theologian Matthew Wilcoxen of Resurrection Church in Washington D.C. gives us a five part structure to guide us through personal lament

Below are his guidelines with some of my personal reflections. May God give us a greater measure of his grace to raise our laments to him. 

An introductory address to God, naming his attributes, his relation to you (Father, Savior, etc.), and recalling his promises or past deeds on your behalf  

Lament begins with an act of faith where feeling may be absent. We call out to God and address him as he has revealed himself to us in Scripture: As the Creator, the Good Shepherd, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, the God of all comfort, etc. We are not just venting emotions in the air. In prayer we speak to a personal God, so we address him by name. We also recall past works of God as recorded in Scripture or in our past experiences to bring to our present moment awareness that the God who has done great things still can do them in our midst. 

A heartfelt complaint that describes the suffering you are seeing or experiencing in honest and vivid terms

Here we lay out to God what we are grieving. We’ve seen as a church how the poet in Lamentations is vivid and raw in his description in his lament. We can do the same. It’s important to lay out the emotions you are experiencing before God. Emotions touch the core of who we are. In lament we give to God what we would hold from others. Just as we don’t hide our symptoms from our doctors, so we don’t hide the deepest part of ourselves from God. When we offer our heartfelt complaint to God it is only then that healing and transformation can begin.  

A confession of trust

Though we may not feel it, when we express our trust in God we find that he embraces us. Our situation may not have changed. The person we miss has not been brought back to life. Nonetheless when we express trust in God we are able to continue moving (perhaps limping) forward with the knowledge that what we lost does not define us, that we can trust him with our lives and with the lives of our loved ones. We commit our future to God’s hands, trusting that he can fill us in the places we are now empty. 

A prayer for deliverance and a statement of why God must do this for you – Appeal to his honor and his ultimate responsibility. Plead the merits of Christ.

God is the one who promises to work all things to our good (Rom. 8:28).  On the basis of his promise to us, we can plead for relief. We acknowledge that it is only through Christ that we can receive the good we need from God. And with that confession, we also realize that his deliverance may not look the way we want.  The cross reminds us that God’s deliverance seldom looks glorious to our natural way of looking at things.  But there will be resurrection.

An expression of thanks that God has heard you and will answer you

It is always fitting to give thanks to God in every circumstance (1 Thess. 5:17). This is not for God’s benefit, but for our own. Hearts that are disposed to gratitude are ready to receive whatever God has for us in the moment. Many Christians find that in lament they experience a closeness to God that they otherwise would have never known. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that in lament we are in touch with our own weakness and vulnerabilities.  When we express our lament we join our voices to the prayers of the Holy Spirit who ministers to us in our weakness. 

Lament is not easy, but necessary. Praise God that he instructs us on how to lament in his inspired Word, and that he has given us the body of believers to learn it and practice it together.