Nearly 129,000 Americans have died of COVD-19, and the number of cases is growing rapidly.
Along with the pandemic of illness, there’s an epidemic of loneliness.
Many people are sustaining severe economic losses.
There’s intensified and justified anger about long-standing racial injustice.
Restlessness and fearfulness are in the air, as a disappointing number of people who hold positions of leadership either do not summon the courage to lead us honestly and with a commitment the common good or they use those positions for self-aggrandizement.
It’s a season of grief—a time for lament. Lament is giving voice, without editing or overanalyzing, to what we most deeply and truly feel in our bodies and souls. Lament is visceral and raw; it can be shouted, whispered, groaned, and wept. It lodges complaints about life’s unfairness and injustice; and, at its boldest, files charges against God for negligence, arbitrariness and abandonment.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1, prayed by Jesus from the cross).
“Why, O Lord do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1)
“My soul is struck with terror, while you O Lord—how long?” (Psalm 6:4).
The presence of these words in the scriptures encourages us to say, even—especially—to God what we most deeply feel. In the conversation with God, which often sounds and feels like an argument or a wrestling match, we learn that our true feelings don’t always tell the whole truth. Not everything a text says is something it teaches, but the saying of even the bitterest things can move us closer to God and open us to sweet mercy.
In lament, we pray:
This isn’t right.
People I’m not sure I can live without have died. Where were you? Where are you?
Certainties on which I relied have collapsed. I’m not ever sure about you right now.
I’m overwhelmed, vulnerable, afraid, and angry. Help me quick. Help me now, or I’m going under.
We need to give voice to what we feel. Some of us will resist spending the time and energy lament requires; but, actually, we don’t have time not to grieve, because pain we ignore finds ways to get our attention. And, there’s latent energy and creativity—energy and creativity we need—frozen in unexpressed and un-integrated feelings.
While lament can and should happen individually, its restorative power is most active when we lament in community. Of course, that’s difficult just now; but, whether by phone or zoom or socially-distanced outside, we need to hear each other’s anxiety and sadness.
It’s a privilege to bear witness to one another’s laments—to see, hear, feel, and acknowledge each other’s true feelings without judgment. There’s sacred and healing power in that kind of witness. Restoration comes as we realize that we are known, valued, and loved, even and especially in our confusions and hurts—both by our friends and by God.