Based in St. Cloud, Minnesota, Growing in Grace is a blog by Pastor Matthew Molesky. His posts explore the Bible, theology, ecclesiology, culture, books, family, and life.

The Practice of Lament

Lament

  • a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.
  • a song, piece of music, or poem expressing sorrow.
  • an expression of regret or disappointment.
  • a complaint.

Week four of the Lenten season is coming to a close, and I have been spending time in the school of lament. Learning what it means to read and enter into laments (see the Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Lamentations for a start),and then following the example of my forefathers and entering in myself: expressing grief and sorrow, giving voice to regrets, professing my disappointments, humbly muttering my complaints.

It has been hard. I'm not very good at this. But I'm trying, even though my lamenting is, itself, lamentable.

Journey to the Cross has kept me on the path, acting as my guide in places where I need direction. It began very early this morning this way...

Confession

God of love, it is your will that we should love you with heart, soul, mind, strength, and our neighbor as ourselves, but we are not sufficient for these things. We confess that our affections continually turn away from you: from purity to lust, from freedom to slavery, from compassion to indifference, from fullness to emptiness. Have mercy on us. Order our lives by your holy Word, and make your commandments the joy of our hearts. Conform us to the image of your loving Son, Jesus, that we may shine before the world to your glory. Amen. 

And then, after the Gospel Reading of Mark 13:32-37, came the following devotional. I include it here, in full, in the hopes that it will serve to pull you into the practice of lament. And that you will, in your crying out, draw near to Jesus.

May it be so.

The deepest longing of our soul is the all-satisfying hesed of God—not in the abstract, but first-hand knowledge and experience, a tasting of God’s hesed. Have you been delivered by the hand of God, tasted his mercy, seen his power, heard his word, felt his presence? The degree to which we have known the presence and power of God is the degree to which we get a sense for what it meant that Jesus was the Son of God, andhow devastating it must have been to bear the judgment of God against sin.

All lament leads us to Jesus, in whom our sorrow and pain finds ultimate identification and hope.

The apex of bewilderment and spiritual chaos for Jesus was on the cross. The physical pain was excruciating, yet it was nothing compared to the shock and horror of being forsaken by the Father. The wrath of God was poured out on Jesus, the whole weight of the world’s guilt bearing down on his shoulders. He felt the pain and loss of humanity. He internalized our anger and shame. He, who knew no sin, became sin (2 Corinthians 5:17).

In that moment, he took up the lament of King David: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). When he said this he not only took our sin upon himself, but also voiced all our laments. For underlying all our laments are two questions: “God, where are you?” and, “God, if you love me, then why?” For the first time in all of eternity, Jesus felt the absence of the Father’s presence and the uncertainty of his love. God could not look upon the sin that Jesus became.

Why did it have to be this way? If Jesus was God’s answer to ages of laments, how did he end up in the most lamentable position of all?

One approach to the question is to consider why so many ultimately rejected him, even his own people (John 1:11). They had expectations about what it would mean for God to answer their prayers and solve their problems. The disciples, too, regularly stumbled over their expectations. They hoped the Messiah would conquer the Romans and vindicate Israel. Instead, he predicted the destruction of the temple and died for the Romans. They wanted the Messiah to give them answers. Jesus gave himself. He predicted his own destruction, and then endured it in order to conquer our real enemies: Satan, sin, and death. Jesus did not take away lamenting. He took it up. Having endured the cross, he secured for us the one thing we need more than solutions: the presence of God.

“Lament is the path that takes us to the place where we discover that there is no complete answer to pain and suffering, only Presence” (Card).

Reflection

  1. Spend some time meditating on the suffering that Jesus endured.

  2. How would the presence of God be more satisfying to you than answers from God? 

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