Some of my favorite songs are brooding laments — with a nugget of gold hidden within. They begin in one key and/or tempo and then, folded within the song, is a movement, an upswing. There’s a faster beat, a shift from minor to major, a bit of sheer joy made all the more golden by its contrast with the rest of the song.
I relate to the honesty of the darker sentiment, but I exalt in the shift. The dark informs the light, and light illuminates the darkness.
I learned about biblical laments a few months ago while leading Margaret Feinberg’s “Wonderstruck” study for a small group of women. She challenged us participants to write our own laments. Though I wasn’t in a hard place then, as I am now, I still found daily life lamentable enough to lay hold of emotion. I poured forth in my journal:
O God, where are you in the daily ugliness? In tantrums and dirt and crying and snow and ice and no time to think or read or write or pray? Where are you when others laugh at me, revile my faith, ignore my heart spilt out for them? Where are you as I seek you avidly, but am pulled back by this world’s detrius? When everything strains to call me from you, distract me, disable me, confound me?
Yet, you show yourself to me in ample measure. In a quick flicker of a moment, you turn my heart from sadness to joy and flood me with your loving, overwhelming presence. You are mighty. You are loving. You are power. You hold me — and the entire cosmos — in the palm of your hand. I will praise you for your majesty; I will love the Holy Who, Holy You, all the days of my life. For this joy, I will endure until I meet you face to face. (<==== Click to tweet)
A successful spiritual lament — not unlike the songs I so love — shows movement. We can have our pity party; we can present our cries to God, but we show a progression. Margaret labels the key elements of a lament as:
1. An invocation for God
2. A complain of distress
3. A petition for intervention or vengeance
4. A confession of sin or proclamation of innocence
5. A vow to praise God for deliverance
6. An expression of trust in God
7. A final praise
As dreamers, I think we need to allow ourselves time to lament when things go awry, when we struggle. (<==== Click to tweet) Yet, so often, when we hit roadblocks, we think that, because we signed up for this whole God-sized dream gig and are so passionate about living out our God-ordained purpose, that we shouldn’t be allowed to mourn a loss or express a frustration.
“By showing our true selves to God — questions, emotions, and all — we discover God’s love in greater measure,” says Margaret.
When we allow ourselves to be achingly honest, to have these difficult conversations, our relationship with God will become richer and deeper. We feel an increased intimacy and find that dazzling nugget of gold, hidden within even the darkest emotions.
Do you have a favorite lament? A psalm, song, work of art?
Shared by: Elizabeth May