The Spiritual Practice of Lament

by Christine Sine

The post below was sent to me by Tracy Byrd Dickerson who describes herself as a lover of Jesus, wife of a fabulous husband, mother to two great guys, hospice nurse, seminarian, celebrant of life abundant.  She blogs at Nacreous Kingdom

In studying the Psalms for a seminary class, I was once again struck with the vivid and often vitriolic character of the imprecatory laments (mournful petitions). The petitions can be shockingly horrifying (e.g. Psalm 109 and Psalm 137). In these songs, the Hebrew people ask God to vindicate them by triumphing over their enemies in often graphic and disturbing ways. On the face of it, one wonders how anyone had the “nerve” to articulate such seemingly vindictive thoughts to God, let alone allow such words to be recorded. But the laments have an essential and marvelous function: by offering them up to God, we have the capacity to see our odious meditations and desperate thoughts transformed into something acceptable (Ps. 19:14), and because we are able to express our feelings toward The Counselor, we are provided with an alternative to outwardly expressing them through either words or actions toward our enemies. As we ventilate our feelings and process them through the filters provided by the Holy Spirit, he searches, tries, sees, and leads us (Psalm 139:23-24) toward healing. Practicing lament is not often though of as a productive or acceptable way of processing our thoughts and feelings, but I would suggest that it is a powerfully effective spiritual practice and an essential component of spiritual formation. Moreover, it is a way to truly step forward in faith and trust toward God, for we are trusting Him with our most filthy ugliness in the knowledge that He will love us nonetheless.

Here are some examples of modern day laments:

Here’s one by Barlow Girl. It’s very beautiful, and touching. Here is an entire album of laments by Michael Card and a page at Calvin Institute for Worship’s website about lament and Card’s work (both written and recorded) on lament for worship. Finally, I have to include this a haunting ‘cover’ of “On the Willows” (from Godspell) it is so agonally beautiful…

Grace and Peace~

Tracy

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