Is lament appropriate for Christians today?

(Shawn T Murphy) #1

Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.

Lament is an OT term and Jesus brought the New Covenant. The term is only mentioned a few times in the NT and this is the only time Jesus mentioned it.

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(Christy Hemphill) #2

I moved this to its own thread, if you would like to pursue it.

Why did Jesus weep over Lazarus? Answer: He was a human and his friend had died. Grief and the expression of grief is totally appropriate and modeled by Christ himself.

When Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was quoting a Psalm of lament.

I Corinthians 4:13 says we do not grieve like those with no hope, but it doesn’t say we don’t grieve. Lament is a healthy form of expressing grief and processing pain. Christians should do it more.

(Shawn T Murphy) #3

Thank you for splitting this off. To me, grief and lament are two very different concepts, and 1 Cor 4:13 explains the difference as you pointed out. Lament is grief without hope, but I do not call a cry out to God in one’s darkest hour to lament. Jesus went on to give Himself to God by saying: “Let Thy Will be done.

(Christy Hemphill) #4

That may be one definition, but it’s not really the biblical one. In the Bible lament is simply voicing your pain to God. In the minor prophet book Habakkuk, you have a dialogue between God and the prophet that is almost all lament. It ends with one of the most beautiful expressions of hope in Scripture:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Well, that’s all fine and good, but you should be aware that is how most of the rest of the English speaking world does use the word. I just consulted several dictionaries. A lament is simply an expression of sorrow or grief. I think you are quite out of touch with how the word is used in Christian circles, where lament is definitely encouraged. See for example:

(Shawn T Murphy) #5

Thank you for that. I would like to share with you what my Christian upbringing taught me.

And then there is another thing that helps Christians which is the cross they undertake, the weight of which they feel in their life. It’s the cross which straightens them up; the cross shows the way in life. And when someone is worried and in distress and doesn’t know the way out, and nobody is there to help, one will find comfort if he knows that everything he bears stems from his own karma. It’s his own guilt which he must bear. He should simply remember that Jesus Christ carried his cross as well and, consequently, resolve to bear his guilt and endure the heavy burden. Thinking deeply on the matter, he will say to himself: “Christ, however, was without sin, yet he carried the cross for me. Therefore, I shall not complain, I shall not lament but be glad that God gave me this life.” Regardless of one’s life situation, one has to acquire the insight that one’s life is precious. Think like this: “My life is precious and came into existence through God’s holy will. It is something valuable, so I shall create something precious with my life. Life is holy, and I shall not abuse it.” Too many don’t know the cause of their suffering and feel their life intolerable. Spiritual World 6/2017

(Randy) #6

One of the deepest books that I have read was C S Lewis’ “A Grief Observed,” which he recorded after his wife, Joy, died. Lewis first wrote it under a pseudonym, --“N W Clerk,” as in, “no one knows who wrote it;” and referred to her as “H,” rather than by her real name, knowing that Christians would not understand. . After my father died, his descriptions of grief resounded with me better. Like Rachel Held Evans about Christian fundamentalism in her books, he was devastatingly truthful in this one:

“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.”

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

"At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

“When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels— welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.

“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”

“Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but 'So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.”

Here’s a quote from Rachel Held Evans on grief:

“Walking with someone through grief, or through the process of reconciliation, requires patience, presence, and a willingness to wander, to take the scenic route. But the modern-day church doesn’t like to wander or wait. The modern-day church likes results. Convinced the gospel is a product we’ve got to sell to an increasingly shrinking market, we like our people to function as walking advertisements: happy, put-together, finished - proof that this Jesus stuff WORKS!”

I don’t think that anyone here is trying to approach things from this point of view–but this is a temptation in the modern church. I don’t know the answers to all this.

In medicine, we are taught to treat everything. However, as patients have taught me and as @jpm would likely agree, we don’t want to stop someone’s tears, as long as they are healthy.

Job and Ecclesiastes would hint that there is no satisfying answer to grief and loss.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #7

I suspect that this splitting of hairs is of no consequence whatsoever to the person thrashing about in the midst of it. When we weep with those who are weeping, I’m pretty sure that won’t include lectures to make sure their pain is expressed only in the proper sort of way.

Maybe there is a place to intellectually tease apart that stuff from comfortable distance if you feel it will help you face those future moments yourself. But one probably shouldn’t presume to argue it out when others are present with their tears.

(Shawn T Murphy) #8

Dear Mervin, Death is a very important part of life and it is often the one moment when people are open to accept new learning. Do you lament and ask God why he took this wonderful, young person from us or do you grieve the loss and thank God for having given this wonderful, young person to us? I choose to grieve and thank God for blessing us with Rachel.

(Christy Hemphill) #9

Yes, definitely. Thankfulness might come later.


As we live in a broken world and suffer the ravages of that brokenness in the many ways it manifests in our lives and others - at times lament is our only appropriate response.

As a parish pastor - I sit with figurative sackcloth and ashes with many people for many different reasons. However, thanks be to God, as I journey with people through their darkness…we see a glimmer of light and hope in the resurrected Jesus…its my job to remind of the light even when they can’t see it. But, one must not ignore the darkness.

(Phil) #11

Thanks for sharing. I have not read that book, but find the description of grief by Lewis mirrored by my own at some points in life. I envy the ability of artists, poets and writers like Lewis to see the inner workings of life and express it so well.


Lewis’ book on grief is remarkable. I’ve been fortunate over the last three years to have been able to receive training and certification in death and grief studies (helpful for a parish pastor) from the Center for Loss in Fort Collins, Co. Though not coming at it from a specifically Christian approach - extremely helpful.

(Tim) #13

This quote conflates lament with complaint. Perhaps lament deals with complaining about one’s lot in life, but grief over loss of another human is a totally different concept. We grieve because that is the natural and human thing to do. If not we are sociopathic and numb to life around us swallowed up in our own selfish thoughts. In Christ, there is the hope of the resurrection, and all reasoning on why a hard event occured can eventually be replaced with hope. The deap underlying thought is that death is because of one humans “sin”. We can get past that as well. But grief over another human is a step up from just lamenting one’s own hardships in life. Personally I do not relish the inevitable fact that such grief is going to happen to me, because it is still selfish knowing that a loved one has passed on, when we know that they are way better off than being here in the flesh. I do not think that the grief happens because of our selfishness, but it can be construed, that we are only grieving out of selfish desires.


At a very basic level, we laugh with those who laugh and cry with those who cry.

I’m reminded of Arnold Bowler’s autobiography–a missionary to Africa. The title refers to him sitting quietly with those who had lost entire families to disease and/or Idi Amin. I don’t think he would have reduced the question of lament to a dispassionate theological argument.


And yet…God can handle our complaint. There’s something disingenuous about “pretending to God” that we don’t have complaint in our hearts so we repress it. Better to get it out and have God apply the hope of the cross to it.

(Tim) #16

Was Job complaining with: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, blessed be the Name of the Lord.”?



Have you read the whole book?

“I am disgusted with my life. Let me complain freely. My bitter soul must complain.” Job 10:1

“Why, then, did you deliver me from my mother’s womb? Why didn’t you let me die at birth? It would be as though I had never existed, going directly from the womb to the grave. I have only a few days left, so leave me alone, that I may have a moment of comfort before I leave—never to return—for the land of darkness and utter gloom." Job 10:18-21

“Yet my friends laugh at me, for I call on God and expect an answer. I am a just and blameless man, yet they laugh at me.” Job 12:4

“Why do you turn away from me? Why do you treat me as your enemy? Would you terrify a leaf blown by the wind? Would you chase dry straw? You write bitter accusations against me and bring up all the sins of my youth. You put my feet in stocks. You examine all my paths. You trace all my footprints. I waste away like rotting wood, like a moth-eaten coat.” Job 13:24-28

“I was living quietly until he shattered me. He took me by the neck and broke me in pieces. Then he set me up as his target, and now his archers surround me. His arrows pierce me without mercy. The ground is wet with my blood. Again and again he smashes against me,
charging at me like a warrior. I wear burlap to show my grief. My pride lies in the dust. My eyes are red with weeping; dark shadows circle my eyes. Yet I have done no wrong, and my prayer is pure.” Job 16:12-17

I could probably add many more examples…

(Darek Barefoot) #18

“Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him.” Acts 8:2

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

“For indeed [Epaphroditus] was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but on me also, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.” Phil 2:27

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(Randy) #19

There is a book (in the OT) of Lamentations, too :slight_smile:

(Shawn T Murphy) #20

Hi Randy, the point that I was trying to make is lamenting is thing of the past. The Good News that Jesus brought replaced the lamenting with hope. I had quoted the only place in the NT were Jesus uses the term.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.
John 16:20 -

This is the message I try to deliver everywhere I go.