Monday, August 23, 2010

The Lost Art of Lament

What do we do when we've lost hope? How do we respond when the one person we thought we could count on lets us down? Where do we turn for comfort when we feel certain that God has abandoned us?

The answer is simple: we cry out. We cry out to God whether he is there or not. We cry out to God whether he is listening or not. We cry out to God whether he rescues us or not. Even though we feel certain that he's not there, that he isn't listening and that he most certainly is not going to rescue us, we cry out anyway.

This act of crying out to God is called lamenting and it is something of a lost art, especially in the evangelical church. Even though scripture is full of laments, most Christians are unwilling to share laments of their own. Many are skeptical of laments, even the ones that appear in scripture.

I can understand why. Laments are so often filled with difficult questions, either asked or unasked. Most people come to religion looking for answers. The last thing they want to encounter is more questions.

As a result, most churches don't spend a lot of time lamenting. This is unfortunate, because I think a good lament might be just the thing we need.

In the world we live in, not every question has an easy answer, and not every problem has a straightforward solution. In fact, I suspect that there are a few important questions that don't have any answer, and some problems that simply defy solution.

In any case, religion certainly can't provide all the answers or all the solutions, no matter how hard it tries. We need to be honest about that. And if we want to be honest about that, then we should learn how to lament properly. We need to learn how to ask the questions we don't have the answer to, instead of pretending we already have all the answers.

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