A note from Kelly King: I have had many times in my life when I have journaled about the things God has taught me, but I’ve never considered truly composing a lament as Kaye Hurta suggests in today’s article. I plan to make it a personal assignment for this next week, and I encourage you to try it too!
One of my favorite authors, Philip Yancey, said this, “We humans represent the only species on earth with whom God can hold a conversation. Only we can articulate praise or lament. Only we can form words in response to the miracle and also the tragedy of life.”
A common expression of grief is lament. In fact, it is the language of grief.
The Bible is filled with stories of human experience, the highs and the lows. God seems to encourage ritual lament. Jeremiah whined, complained, and filled an entire book with lamentations. Don’t even get me started on Job! Even Jesus prayed “with loud cries and tears,” lamenting to His Father.
The definition of a biblical lament is, “A prayer that describes with brutal honesty the pain, sorrow, and deepest desires of the author, while also expressing trust in the relentless goodness of God.”
That’s what it is, but why is it important for our healing through the grief process?
Lament helps us move through our pain by slowing us down enough to put words to our sorrow. Sorrow, when expressed, brings about healing. Sorrow, when bottled up, leaves us stuck.
Lament provides us with physical language for entrusting God with our sorrow. It helps us process our sorrow honestly, and it invites hope to enter in. Lament also provides a structure for expressing our sorrow to God. It is a great way to notice and name our sorrow by holding our complaint to God AND our trust in the truth of His character simultaneously.
Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?
So, how do you actually write a lament?
The book of Psalms was written as a songbook for and by the Hebrew people. It is a telling of their own story—the highs and the lows—through song. It is estimated that about two thirds of those songs were written and sung as laments. Interestingly, the Bible does not rush to a happy ending; that’s something we’ve learned to do culturally to avoid our own pain.
To help you learn to write your own lament let’s follow a pattern seen over and over in the Psalms. Read Psalm 13 as an example.
Just looking at Psalm 13, the four elements of a lament are:
- The Address: State who you’re addressing. In our case, it’s God.
- Your Complaint: Describe the problem, the hurt, heartache, injustice, loss, anger—whatever you’ve experienced—with brutal honesty.
- Your Request: State what you want; ask God to act or respond.
- An Expression of Truth: State what you hope is possible; state your trust in some aspect of God’s character. Again, share whatever you can state honestly.
Your homework this weekend is to write a lament. Perhaps you are currently grieving a loss. If so, you already know what to write about. If not, think back to your most recent experience with loss or grief. Practice writing a lament.
Remember, leaders go first. Before you ask someone else to write one, try it for yourself. If you’re like me, you’ve been writing laments long before you knew what it was called. Glance through my journal from last year, and you will find lament after lament. The process has been healing for me, and I pray it will be for you as well as the women you are helping. Maybe we can see things through tears that we just can’t see dry-eyed.
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live in the Chicago burbs where they are both on staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.