Over the past six months, I’ve been going through deep grief, been in biblical counseling for the last three months, and have been sitting on this article since writing it about two weeks after a dear friend and mentor died. See, six months ago today, a very dear friend, one of my former pastors and mentor of mine died of complications with COVID-19 and a stroke. He was making the turn where he was legitimately getting better from COVID-19. The day he died, he had a severe stroke. The doctors did everything they could to help him, but there was severe damage in his lungs from COVID-19, and then he had a stroke. While the doctors did all they could, including surgery to help the blood clots and more, my dear friend Mike Beaudin died on October 13, 2021, and went to be with the Lord. Through this season of life, biblical lament has been helping me process my dear friend’s death.
Biblical lament opens the door to face doubt, lament, grief, and loss, not in the absence of God, but before the face of God and in the presence of God with the help of His Word, His Spirit, and His people. You may not be facing severe grief or loss like me, which many of you likely are in light of COVID-19 and many other cases in the last two years. Still, you might be facing doubt, or you have a family member with a debilitating disease like cancer, or a parent or parents, in my case, who have memory loss and will not even remember who I am as their disease progresses. So, understanding what lament is vital because it helps us process suffering biblically, which helps us face difficult emotional situations with trust and confidence in the revealed character of God in Scripture.
Lamenting the Loss of Family Members or Close Friends
We can lament the loss of a family member or someone close to us (Luke 8:52). Jesus entered into our grief when He was on earth. We see this when Lazarus died, his sisters Mary and Martha grieved, and their friends lamented over their loss (John 11:17-37). Jesus was touched by this and wept with them (John 11:35).
Many Psalms are Psalms of lament, which express a range of emotions when the authors were going through similar situations as we do today. We may lament when we are broken by the hurt of a situation or a fractured relationship or similar situation, and our hearts are hurting. Psalm 130:1 says, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!” Jesus demonstrated this type of lament in Mark 14:36 when he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Life’s Challenges and Lament
In the Psalms, we discover the Psalms of lament. A variety of writers write these Psalms and are people who face different circumstances and situations.
These Psalms share a common structure and pattern. The Psalms of lament open by crying out to the Lord. The Psalmists don’t stuff down their feelings and try to clean themselves up by their efforts or abilities. Instead, they come boldly before the Lord, knowing He knows what is going on in their lives to share with the Lord what is on their mind and hearts. Psalm 6:6 is an example of this type of lament, “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.”
The writers of the Psalms of lament also cry out to the Lord for help by asking the Lord to rescue them, bring relief from their pain, and help and salvation. Psalm 71:12 is an example of this type of Psalm when it says, “O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me!”
Lament and Worship the Lord
Throughout the Psalms, the writers often reference the Lord’s character, including how He has acted throughout redemptive history. The Psalms of lament are not written in real-time as the writer is going through their situation, but after the writer had already gone through a journey of struggling with their emotions. They have also cried out to the Lord repeatedly and reminded themselves of who the Lord is and what He is like, and responded in trust and worship to the Lord. Psalm 86:12 is an example of this when it says, “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.”
The Instructive Nature of Psalms of Lament
The Psalms of lament are so instructive for us as Christians. They help us know God’s goodness in various situations where we are going through our fear, grief, and suffering. Following the pattern of the Psalmists helps redirect our gaze from our situations to the Lord, who alone can help and comfort us.
The more we turn our gaze to the Lord and engage in the practice of lament, the more we will find help and comfort from the Lord. In my deep grief and sadness, I’ve been continually turning to the practice of biblical lament, and it’s been helping me process my loss biblically. In light of that, I encourage you, dear Christian reader, to practice biblical lament.
No matter where you are at and what you are going through, your heavenly Father, dear Christian, knows and understands where you are at today. You may lament the slow death of a parent from memory loss, a family member or dear friend who died from COVID-19, or another debilitating disease or situation. The Lord knows your struggle because He knows you. Please, dear Christian brother or sister in Christ, take your cares, burdens, and, yes, your struggles to Jesus, your High Priest who loves you, and express your lament to Him who loves you.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and is the Host for the Equipping You in Grace Podcast. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021) and The Word Matters: Defending Biblical Authority Against the Spirit of the Age (G3 Press, 2022). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.