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. Habakkuk 3:17-19
“Lament doesn’t have nearly the level of popularity gratitude does. But it should. Lament is overlooked, undervalued, and totally misunderstood. Far from being a sign of faithlessness or ingratitude, or even being the same as whining, lament plays a powerful role in the Christian life
Scripture is chock-full of lamenters. From Leah and Naomi, to David and the psalmists, to the prophets straight on through to Jesus, we read of faithful people who poured out their hearts and grievances to God. And we read of a God who not only accepted their laments but seemed to bless them.
Laments “work” in helping us experience God’s nearness because it’s through lament that we are able too bring our honest, open hearts to God – at least, when we’re grieving. We know that the Christian life is not always smiles and sunshine but often thunderclouds and tears, so it’s essential that we have language to use to come before God both in praise and thanksgiving and in lament.
That said, we don’t want to become constant complainers, so I believe it is essential that we establish “criteria” for our grievances – so we don’t end up actually whining about every last thing. For me, I know when I need to grieve or cry out to God if something (1) breaks my heart, (2) is lost or (3) is something I cannot change.
What also keeps a lament from becoming an all out whine or a self-centered gripe is a matter of where it ends up. While I believe in bringing God all the down-and-dirty details of whatever is wrong with my world (He knows it anyway!), a lament really works its “magic” in what I call the “and yet” moment. This is the place where, after you have laid it all before God, you acknowledge His goodness, His mercy, His grace, His very divinity. And it’s in this moment where God swoops right on in.”
Caryn Rivadeneira in Broke: What Financial Desperation Revealed About God’s Abundance (Downers Grove: IVP, 2014) 153-154.
If you want a great book that explores spiritual lessons learned through financial brokenness, then this book will be a real blessing for you. It’s a privilege to have the author, Caryn Rivadeneira, in my Faith and Finances class at Northern Seminary on Tuesday nights this month.
I love what she says about lament. Lament is the pathway for helping people experience the generosity of God in hard times. But most people don’t know how to do it. As she keenly notes, it devolves to whining and complaining. This is happening all around us during the COVID-19 crisis.
Let’s not overcomplicate it. What breaks your heart, is lost, or is something you cannot change but would like to? If you can make a list, then it’s time to lament. Perhaps also meditate on Psalm 13. These are days for lamenting because much is broken, lost, and out of our control.
God, please swoop in as we lament.