“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
Several days ago, a colleague who teaches at a northeastern college posted a powerful lament on Facebook® as a response to the events at the Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, 2021.
In its noun form, a “lament” is a feeling or expression of grief or sorrow sometimes found in song or poem (Free Dictionary, Online). Though not exclusive to the Bible, many of the psalms attributed to King David are prayers of lament in which he shared his feelings of frustration, anger, and sadness with GOD (and sometimes aimed at GOD). The Book of Lamentations, attributed to the Prophet Jeremiah, is an extended lament over the fate of Jerusalem after its downfall at the hands of the Babylonians.
I processed that post as a reminder and a challenge to make a decision, to rail or to lament? The natural thing to do is to rail. Anger is an easy emotion to express. The violence on Capitol Hill was the fruit of long-term railing, a verbal shaking of fists, that led to the use of physical fists and beyond. Is it right that I rail at others, directly, through social media or other means, in order to vent my feelings? It certainly would be easy, and I can’t claim that I have never done that.
Somehow, though, I’ve come to believe that biblical lament is the better choice. The battles that need to be fought are GOD-sized; humans have been railing at each other for one reason or another for multiple millennia, usually without lasting positive effect. It is a failed strategy, although it often feels good in the moment. Those moments, however, pass.
The strength of lament is that it acknowledges both our emotions and our human limitations and gives those frustrations, angers, pains, points of sadness, and hopeful desires, and places them in the hands and heart of GOD. The familiar pattern of biblical laments is that after all the complaining is done, trust and confidence in Him is expressly affirmed.
Furthermore, lament is a way to “cease the striving” which exhausts our souls and which leads us away from GOD-centered wisdom and toward self-centered wisdom, which, in the end, is not wisdom at all. So while I won’t deny my feelings nor will I anesthetize my thoughts through a faux spirituality which denies hard reality, I will not rail at the wind nor at others. I trust that when the proverbial dust settles, He will make all things well.
© Byron L. Hannon, 2021. All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.