Lament and the Mission of God

Part 1, Introduction

What image does the word “lament” bring to your mind? It can feel a bit Old Testament, can’t it? We associate lament with many of the psalms (indeed, seven of the first ten psalms are lamenting songs). There’s even a whole Old Testament book called Lamentations, which contains the laments of Jeremiah during a particularly tough time in Israel’s history.

But to consign lamenting to the Old Testament and conclude that it’s not relevant for New Testament believers would be a mistake. I hope to show in this series of articles that lament should play an intrinsic role in our lives as Christians. Becoming a Christian doesn’t make us immune from pain. But how we respond when we go through grief and loss is where the rubber hits the road of our faith. I believe that lamenting provides a powerful counter-cultural opportunity for us to not only find God’s tender mercy but also help us to identify with his overall mission. Now, the mission of God in the world is multi-faceted and I don’t want to run the risk of defining this too narrowly. However, for the purposes of these articles, I want to underline that God’s mission is to reveal his redeeming grace to humanity at large, and to us individually. Within that process, lament can be a critical component because it is often in the hardest times of life that we lean most heavily on God’s redemptive grace. We’ll unpack this further as we proceed through the articles.

The dictionary defines lament as a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. The implication is that lamenting is a deep form of mourning. However, author Mark Vroekop in his excellent book, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, provides greater nuance when considering Christian lament:

Lament is the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness… lament stands in the gap between pain and promise… Lament is a prayer in pain that leads to trust… lament is a path to praise as we are led through our brokenness and disappointment.’

I believe that the Bible teaches that God has provided lament as a means of grace through which we can express our grief, renew our trust in him, experience his redemptive grace, and discover God’s purposes beyond our pain. We will unpack this in the articles that follow as we reflect on the revelation that God laments, as we look at some biblical examples of lament, and as we consider lament as a pathway to healing. My prayer is that you will discover that lament needs to be a vital component of our discipleship through which we can more deeply engage with God’s mission to reveal his redeeming grace.