Wrestling With Sorrows – the Power of Lament

In this study, we are going to be looking at Loss and Grief and the Power of Lament. But, what is a lament? It is basically taking our complaints to God and trusting Him for the results.  

Have you ever questioned God?  After a loss of a loved one, sickness, a lost job, changes in your financial status, marital problems, challenges with children or parents, have you wondered why? Or why me? 

Do you have pain and maybe even anger because of something that has happened to you or your family?  

My youngest daughter Bethany has epilepsy.  She had her first seizure when she was 16 and she is now 33.  The last 3 years have been very hard on her.  3 years ago, her medications would no longer control the seizures, she could not work, she had to move back in with us, she had to have someone stay with her 24 hours a day.   

It has been a challenging season for her and for my wife and me.  We were frustrated, tired, afraid, and sometimes it was hard to remain hopeful.  Perhaps you can relate to me and my wife. 

What are the sorrows in your life?  What is causing you or your family pain and/or anxiety?Does anything cause you to question the goodness of God? 

Lament, which is complaining to God in a biblical way,  helps us process and grow spiritually through our sorrows,  but before we focus on Lament, let us consider the following questions. 

Why do we have Loss and Grief?  

What is the purpose of suffering? 

If we look at the world around us, we see a tremendous amount of suffering everywhere.  The war here has impacted not only Ukraine, but all of Europe and much of the world.  Natural disasters have caused huge losses in life as well as physical and economic damages. These disasters include earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis.  There is also disease, death, economic issues, racial inequalities, anger, fear, and much more.   

Some of you may wonder why? What is causing all this turmoil?  

Romans 5:12 states:

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”. 

The reason we have suffering, and hardship is sin.  We live in a fallen world and until Christ returns in glory to take his people home, sin and death and suffering will continue in our world.   

If you have your Bibles turn to Romans 8:18-22 

Paul tells us: 

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 

Sin affects everything. 

Lament gives us the ability to take our sorrows to God, to cry out to him and trust Him.  Jesus understands our sorrows, our pain, our frustrations.  Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 53:3: 

“He (Jesus) was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” 

Lament is the cry of a hurting heart struggling with pain and grief.  It is the tension that lies between suffering and the promise of God’s goodness. Lament is based in the fact that God loves us unconditionally and he will ultimately save us.  It is living in the “not yet” of God’s promises.  

Lament is wrestling with the impact of sin on our lives and our world. Lament is choosing to trust God that our complaints are heard. It is believing that He hears our requests and that He will help us walk through our pain. Let’s turn to Psalms 13 and look at this lament by David. 

1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? 3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; alight up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, 4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. 5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” 

David is under attack.  He feels like he has been abandoned by God.  He asks if God will forget him forever in verse one.  It seems like God is not present.  David prays and seeks God’s help, but God is silent.  God appears to be deliberately hiding or staying away from him.  David’s enemies seem to be winning.   

David then presents his request, answer me, please.  Help me or I may die.  Then in verse 5 David changes his prayer and tells God that he still trusts him.  And then David proclaims the certainty of his salvation even though everything around him is going badly.  He praises God, because he knows that ultimately God is good even if the situation David is going through is hard.  

This is a lament.  It is a deep cry to God for help.  Lament is us telling God about our situation and asking him in faith to intervene. It is also praising him for the outcome, even though the answer to our request may take days, months or even years.  Lament is us being able to live in the “not yet”.  It is being able to overcome our sorrows through faith in the goodness of God. 

Is biblical lament new for you? For many Christians lament is not familiar.  We know how to complain. But we don’t always know how to turn our suffering over to God and trust him for the answer.   

Over one third of the Psalms, the songbook of Israel, are laments that deal with pain. There are many other laments in other parts of the old and New Testament including the entire book of Lamentations.   

The book of Lamentations was written by the prophet Jeremiah. This book reflects upon the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Jeremiah wanted future generations to never forget the lessons from this dark moment in Israel’s history.  That Israel was destroyed because they stopped following God and instead followed other gods. Let’s look at another lament in Psalms, turn to Psalms 60.  We see in this passage that Israel is at war and has suffered some defeats. 

1 O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses; you have been angry; oh, restore us. 2 You have made the land to quake; you have torn it open; repair its breaches, for it totters. 3 You have made your people see hard things; you have given us wine to drink that made us stagger. 4 You have set up a banner for those who fear you, that they may flee to it from the bow. Selah 5 That your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand and answer us! 10 Have you not rejected us, O God? You do not go forth, O God, with our armies. 11 Oh, grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man! 12 With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes. 

The armies of Israel had experienced defeat from some of their neighboring enemies.  David feels that God had rejected his people and allowed them to be defeated.  The defeat of the people of God made David feel as if the earth were shaking, they were seeing hard things.  David reminds God that He is the divine protector of Israel, that he promised to deliver them.  Then David states his complaint to God, it seems as if you have rejected us, that you are no longer fighting for us.  

David cries to God, “help us” because we cannot help ourselves.  Then David turns to trust and acknowledges that God will yet deliver his people. He states that the people of God will triumph because God will fight for them.  

Adapted From Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy 

“Lament is how we bring our sorrow to God.  Without lament we won’t know how to process pain.  Without lament silence, bitterness, and even anger can dominate our lives.  Without lament we won’t know how to help people walking through sorrow.  Lament is rooted in what we believe.  Lament allows us to acknowledge that the world is broken, God is powerful, and he will be faithful.  Lament stands in the gap between pain and promise.”  Lament allows us to wrestle with our sorrows.  Lament allows us to meditate on God’s promises to be faithful.  Lament helps to grow our faith as we learn to trust in the sovereignty of God and in his goodness.” 

There are several types of Laments.   

Psalms 13 is an example of an individual lament.  It focuses on the fact that God seemed to have forsaken David.  Psalms 60 is a national lament.  It focuses on God allowing Israel to be defeated in battle and crying out for God to rescue his people.   There are also laments dealing with individual sin, such as Psalms 51. There are also laments that deal with national sin described in Lamentations because Israel had forsaken God and had been destroyed as a result.   

There are also laments focused on injustice and pleading with God for justice and retribution such as Psalms 10.

Lament helps us to live in hard times and trust in God’s sovereignty and his goodness. Laments give us a pattern and process to cry out to God for our own individual, national and global sins. Laments enable us to cry out to God about sorrows, injustice, and suffering.  Biblical lament has five different stages: (adapted from Dark Clouds…Deep Mercy) 

  • Going to God in prayer 
  • Stating our Complaint 
  • Asking Boldly for God to respond 
  • Choosing to Trust God with the answer 
  • Continuing to Trust God, no matter how long it takes 

Stages of Lament

How to Lament (adapted from Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy Vroegop, Mark) Example of someone being misunderstood and treated unfairly 

Stages of Lament Bible Passage My Lament 
Turn to God Address God as you come to him in prayer. This is sometimes combined with complaint Psalms 86:1 Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me for I am poor and needy  v 6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. God, I need you to hear me. I am hurting and in pain. I am asking for you to listen to my lament. I desperately need your grace today.   
Bring your complaint v 14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set you before them.  You have heard every unfair word, and you know how I have been misunderstood. I am upset. I am defensive. I want to strike back with more words. I do not feel like they care. It doesn’t end. I do not know what to do.  
Ask Boldly v 2  Preserve my life… save your servant  v 3 Be gracious to me, O Lord,  v 11 Teach me your way, O LORD… unite my heart to fear your name.  v 16 Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant,  v 17  Show me a sign of your favor Teach me every lesson you want me to learn through this. Help me know what to say or not to say. Make my heart love your purposes more than I love my reputation. Help me know that you are listening and that you care for me. I need help, God. My heart is so divided. One minute I think good thoughts. The next, ugly thoughts. Pour out your grace on me, please!   
Chose to Trust God v 8  There is none like you among the gods, O Lord  v 12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.  v 13 For great is your steadfast love  v 15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.  v 17 …You, LORD, have helped me and comforted me. None of this is a surprise to you.  You have heard every word.  You know what I am feeling, and you are greater than anything I face.  You can supply what I need and give me the strength if others do not understand.  I can trust you with what people say about me.  You have helped me through many worse situations.  So I am going to keep my eyes on you.  I’m trusting you.  I’m still going to worship you.  Thank you. 
Continuing to Trust God Psalms 9:10 And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. Lord I will continue to trust you and praise you, for I know that you hear me and that you are good.  

Learning to lament enables us to carry our burdens to God and helps us to grow in our faith. Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:30

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  

I Peter 5:7 tells us we are to:

“cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”  

Through the process of lamenting:

  • turning to God,  
  • stating our complaint,  
  • boldly asking, and then
  • trusting Him  

We can grow in our faith and learn to trust him more. The process of lamenting is not an instant fix, it is ongoing.  In fact, we read in the Bible that some laments went on for many years before God answered.   We need to continue trusting that He will respond and that He is good. 

Adapted from How to Lament Well’, Pastor Mark Vroegop  

We need to remember that God also laments. God was grieved over the violent wickedness of his human creatures. Furthermore, God was grieved when the people of Israel, turned away from him. Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend.  Paul tells us of the Holy Spirit “groaning” within us, Paul tells us about the pain and groaning of the whole creation. God grieves over the sin in our world today. While tears and sorrow are part of our humanity, the prayer language of lament can help us through the sorrows of our broken world.  Lament is not the same as crying, It’s uniquely Christian.  

The Bible is filled with lament, this song of sorrow.  Jesus lamented in the final hours of his life. 

Call to action: 

We need to practice Lament.  This week I want you to consider one or more of the following sorrows.  

  • The consequences of the war and the suffering it has caused. 
  • Economic hardships  
  • Relatives or friends that do not know Christ. 
  • A friend or family member who is ill. 
  • A broken relationship 

Write your own lament regarding one or more of these topics. Cry out to God and let him know your request and trust that he will hear you and will answer. When fellow Christians are going through hard times learn and practice lamenting together.  If you are not a Christian,  if you have not trusted Christ as your savior, what is stopping you from coming to Christ?  

Christ tells us he came to bear our sorrows, He came to restore our relationship with God. He came to give us a hope and a future. Christ came to live a perfect life and then give his life for us on the cross that we could be reconciled with God.  He is calling all of us to a life of repentance and faith.   

As Joshua said in Joshua 24:15 “choose this day whom you will serve…But for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” 

Who do you choose to serve? 

If you do not know Christ, choose him today. If you know Christ, learn to lament. Learn to carry your sorrow and your pain to him. Learn to trust him.