As we move into a season which is characterized so often by a posture of gratitude, a season filled with an infectious thrill of hope, I have found myself almost antithetically drawn to texts, essays, and scripture which focus on lament.
The practice of lament is a deeply interesting concept - for in lament one seeks to honor the honesty of pain and anger while also honoring the ultimate faithfulness of the Lord.
Since all of the Perkins Fellows last gathered to discuss various ideas, such as lament and our call to saint-hood rather than heroism, from Hoang and Johnson’s The Justice Calling I have felt a continual calling to further explore and seek understanding of what is means to undertake a posture of lament.
As described in The Justice Calling, Lament is a “cry directed to God, it is the cry of those who seek the truth of the world’s deep wounds and the cost of seeking peace, it is the prayer of those who are deeply disturbed by the way things are.” This passage so poignantly describes why I have been feeling this intense draw to lament, not in-spite of the hope and joy of the quick approaching advent season, but rather in light of it. It is in times such as these that I am most reminded, or more truthfully, deeply disturbed, by the way things are. It is during this most joyful time of year that I feel most deeply the wounds of the world, that I cannot help but turn to scripture from the Psalmist, from Lamentations, Habakuk and so many others that beg the question of the Lord, How Long?
How long until we offer refuge to the most vulnerable of people with confidence in the Lord that He will provide and protect all of His children?
How long until our city’s street and public spaces are no longer places where we have to fear violence?
How long until we no longer have our hearts broken by the pain of a broken home or family?
How long, how long, how long…
For the longest time I felt as if I had to hide these probing questions of lament. For in begging the Lord for answers to questions such as these, as well as so many more, I was somehow failing to fully believe in the grace and faithfulness of the Lord. I felt like my sense of heartache over the state of the world was a betrayal of my faith, for how could I truly believe in Him if I was constantly asking: Where are you? Why, Lord? Where is the goodness in this?
However, as time has passed, I have come to reconcile that in fact in undertaking a posture of lament, in begging those most difficult questions of the Lord, we are not betraying our faith, but rather we are demonstrating our ultimate determination to draw near to the Lord in times of hardship rather than pulling away. For as stated in The Justice Calling “lament enables us to keep moving forward with perseverance in the justice calling; it is a way to remain deeply connected to the God who loves us and loves justice even when injustice makes us ask the hardest questions of God”.
To lament, to weep for the brokenness of the world, is not to question the grace and fruitfulness of the Lord, but is rather a testament to our faith. For we know that in the mist of our weeping we are crying out to the God of the universe whose love for all of creation is everlasting and never failing.
To undertake a posture of lament is to believe fully in the thrill of hope that is to come.
(p.s. I have had Bilforst Art’s How Long? playing in the background as I write this post, it is worth a listen)