Lament as Prayer

Originally published at

Lament does not feel spiritual to me in the way I have often thought of spirituality. When I think of spiritual people who have trusted in God, I do not imagine them crying in anguish, snot bubbling at their nose, their voices raised in a loud shout asking God their angry questions.  When I think of the Bible, I think of victories won or patient, solemn faith. There does not seem to be room for the tears and snot and anger that have invaded my everyday life after the death of my aunt to cancer and the unexpected death of my uncle to a heart attack less than three months later.

In hindsight, it seems silly to me that I viewed lament as unbiblical when much of Scripture is devoted to it. I was not unaware of the existence of lament in the Bible, I knew of the laments of Job and the prophets and David and even Jesus, as a few, of many, examples. I was well acquainted with passages of grief and lament, but they always felt uncomfortable to me. I would bristle when I read the book of Job, afraid that his pain would dampen my joy somehow. I’d read the words quickly, scanning the pages but never pausing to take any of it in. I concluded that Job was a book for suffering people, but not for me in my comfort and joy. In reading Scripture, as in life, it is painful for me to enter into the lament of another person’s sorrow. It requires me to pick up their pain, strap it on myself like a heavy backpack, and carry it around. The weight is often awkward and makes me feel unbalanced.

This discomfort is not unusual, as it turns out. Over the last few months, I have watched people grapple with the awkward weight of another person’s suffering. They have grasped at anything they can for stability - kitschy sentiments, wildly out-of-context Bible verses, something about the dead becoming guardian angels. I have watched as people try to apply happy-clappy theology bandaids over the bullet hole of death. They do this with the best of intentions, but their bandaids do nothing to heal; they only cover the wound, make it less visible and perhaps less of an inconvenience... Continue Reading...