Many American Christians don't possess the appropriate tools to mourn the grief of the deaths they've experienced (from literal death to the little endings).
If we ignore our losses, then rage can explode, depression can arise, and anxiety can cripple our central nervous system.
However, it doesn't have to because God has given us an incredible gift — Lament.
a pressure release valve for the soul
My wife got one of those pressure cookers. You know the souped-up crockpots (pun intended).
She's developed a love-hate relationship with it because the pressure doesn't always build correctly with the meals she cooks. However, when it works, it's brilliant.
The pressure transforms ingredients into delicious food faster than seems appropriate. But you can't let the pressure build forever. You have to flip the switch to enjoy the result.
Pain and loss can transform us just about faster than anything.
C.S. Lewis says, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world..." (Source)
Paul and James also tell us that trials are rejoicing-worthy because we know that God is up to something — shaping and strengthening us more into the image of Christ (Romans 5:1-5; James 1:2-4).
Yet, we can't let the pressure build forever. No one can withstand that.
While there's a whole book of the Bible about lament called Lamentations, the most accessible place to start is the Psalms.
Psalm 13 to be exact:
1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
alight up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
Psalm 13 teaches us all we need to start lamenting today.
How to lament
Riffing off Mark Vroegop's timely, insightful, instructive, and hopeful book (I'm a fan if you can't tell) Dark Clouds Deep Mercy, here are the three movements of lament from Psalm 13.
Protest to God (Psalm 13:1-2) Amazingly, God welcomes our complaints. Adults can learn from the unfiltered, raw complaint of a child, crying, "It's not fair!" The whys and hows of lament are appropriate forms of prayer because we agree with God that sin has shattered his good world. Our protest against pain also reveals our desire for a coming-world without it.
Ask for Help (Psalm 13:3-4) After laying out our case before God, we remember that he gives generously to all who ask (Matthew 7:11; James 1:5). We make requests of God, knowing that He alone is powerful enough to do anything in situations outside of our control. Asking for help is the precursor to choosing to trust.
Choose to Trust (Psalm 13:5-6) David ends his lament with an affirmation of who God is. And this is important: Even if he doesn't feel like God is loving or trustworthy, He chooses to trust God anyway. Too often, when disaster strikes, we pull away from God. The very act of lament draws us near to the only Person who can help us in moments of deepest pain.
What do you need to lament?
Why not grab Psalm 13 today and use it as a guide to lament your losses — maybe even write out a lament.
God won't waste any of your sufferings. He'll use everything in your life to shape and strengthen you into the image of Christ (Philippians 1:6).
However, God has also given you lament to release some pressure now and again. Let's be sure to take advantage of that gift.
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