By Anthony Gammage
Recently I was sitting with a dear brother and sharing once again my struggle with anxiety. I don’t process emotional pain, frustration, or disappointment like I should. You see, when something bad or challenging happens to me, I just do what I do best…pick myself up, dust myself off, suck it up, and get back into the game. I am a poster child for the “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” movement. Everyone from Kanye to Kelly Clarkson has made it a modern anthem. Even in the church, we are prone to slapping a “Romans 8:28 Band-Aid” on all of our difficulties and moving on. But is that how we are to process our difficulties?
Now let me affirm, God does indeed work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. All of it. But he also made us human. We hurt. We get sick. Our hearts break. We have unfulfilled longings. And in the midst of that, God doesn’t just look at us and say, “suck it up, get back in the game!” He gives us space to lament.
A lament is something between sinful anger and anxiety. It is a cry to God in the midst of a broken world which admits our frailty and searches wildly for God’s presence and lovingkindness in the barren wasteland of a post-Genesis 3 world. God’s people used to sing laments together as they sang the Psalms during worship. Between one-third to a half of the Psalms are laments, which tells us how critical they are to our humanness. David lamented (2 Sam 1:17; 3:33; 18:33; Psalm 3). Job lamented. Jeremiah lamented (Lamentations 1-5). Jesus even lamented (Luke 13:34; 19:41-44). So the question is, do we know how to lament?
Michael Card, in his book A Sacred Sorrow, writes how we as modern Americans have grown up in a culture that is without the ability to lament. “[We have grown up] trying to control our tears and trying to help others control theirs, thinking in the midst of it all sometimes that we might even be able to control the pain. All our ulcers and neuroses unfold as an inescapable consequence. That single pathway through it all, the path of lament, became overgrown, lost, left off all our maps” (20).
A sad reality, but true in my own life.
The beautiful thing I’ve discovered in my short journey of rediscovering lament is that, as with all of the Psalms of lament but one (88), it often leads to the praise and worship of our Savior who is also familiar with the brokenness of this world. May we grow in our ability to lament, and find true worship in the process.