The Need for Lament #MennoNerdsOnLoss

Lament is a spiritual discipline. Some might be inclined to tell you that expressing pain or grief to God is a bad thing, that we should be happy about everything because God is good, a very damaging twist on Philippians 4:11. Yes, we are to be content despite everything and even to expect that some suffering will happen as a result of our discipleship. And yes, God is good, but that does not mean that everything about her creation is good. We need to operate in the reality of a damaged world, but unfortunately the church, like a lot of the Western world in general, tends to put on a “stained-glass masquerade” instead (excuse the bad Windows Movie Maker video and just pay attention to the lyrics)

I know this kind of attitude has always been prevalent in the human psyche, but I definitely have to question how much the modern era and its problematic presuppositions have contributed. In the modern era we are told that truth is measured purely objectively, creating an idol of this understanding of truth which we have applied to every element of our lives from how we read our Bibles to what we are taught in our schools. If everything is objective and there is no room for subjectivity (not relativity, but subjectivity), there is no room for true human experience. And so we are left denying our experiences, which are not always good ones, in the face of the hard objective truth that God is good. We’re often not really given the permission to do otherwise.

Allowing ourselves to lament, though, pulls us away from this pretend world of cold hard facts and back to the real world. The real world is not fundamentally that of scientific rationalism and objective truth. The real world is fundamentally that of experiencing relationship with your Creator and your fellow creation. Relationship is messy because people are messy. We make mistakes, hurting ourselves and each other. I haven’t even mentioned realities like death which must be faced as an inevitable companion. It does us no good to deny this, even – maybe especially – when it is done in the name of being pious.

Furthermore, if we aren’t acknowledging the ways in which the world falls short of God’s ideal, we can never be a part of bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth as we are called to do. Acceptance (realizing the truth of the current situation, not saying that it always has to be that way) is a key step in any healing process. Jesus didn’t change the world by sitting around comfortably trying to ignore the problems in his creation. He didn’t even hang back and try to fix it from a safe distance. He incarnated as one of us and spent most of his time with those who were suffering the most. In acknowledging our pain, even crying alongside us, he changed the world. We can’t follow him by sitting around with our fingers in our ears denying suffering all around us.

So pour out your hearts to God. Sometimes life sucks and we shouldn’t be afraid to admit that. In fact, we really need to learn to admit that. Express your pain like so many of the biblical authors did, like Jesus himself did. And express pain in solidarity with others, including the billions who suffer in serious ways everyday. Like Jesus, enter into that pain with them, and then work to change it.

This post is a part of MennoNerds Synchro-Blog on the topic of Death, Loss, Pain and Grief which took place at the end of July 2013. Check out our page on MennoNerds.com to see all the other posts in this series.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.

  • bonniecasad

    This is a really good piece. I didn’t want to listen to the Casting Crowns song at first because to me, they belong with the happy, hopeful Christian music on the radio that I can’t stomach. But I did listen to it, cringing at first, and I’m glad I did. I remember that many songs they sing, I like- this one included.

    And the idea here, that we always put our best foot forward, even in church, resonates with me. I *hate* to reveal weakness. I hate to cry in front of anyone, and I am the world’s best spinner of facts to make everything seem fine. On the other hand, life has dealt my family hard cards, and there is plenty of reason to open up and share the pain. I love my church. I have finally found a “home” within the Mennonite faith, but you are right, there is still the tendency to hide the worst.

    BTW, I don’t have much time for blog reading these days as I’ve started online schooling, and now that RHE has taken a hiatus yours is the chosen one! 😉

    • I can understand the apprehension about Casting Crowns. They have a few songs that make me cringe, but then there are a few others like that one which I’ve always found powerful.

      I definitely don’t expect to compete with RHE but I’m glad you’re finding something helpful here in the meantime 🙂