O Lord, how long will you forget me?
How long will you look the other way?
—Psalm 13: 1 NLT
It's a word we don't hear very often. When I have heard it in the past, I've put it into the category of whining, venting, complaining to God from the depths of my soul. And maybe it is all of that. But in these past weeks of worldwide misery and panic and self-isolation, the concept of lament has come to the fore. Psalms I didn't pay particular attention to have taken on new relevance.
I asked my experts, a.k.a. my friends.
What does it mean to you to lament?
Have you lamented in this time?
Do you feel lost, abandoned or hopeless?
They never let me down. One said "It's an expression of grief, born out of regret or mourning." Another said "It is helplessness and anguish and it is a deep to the core emotion." Friend Judy, who often says she cries out to God, says lamenting is beyond sorrow. "It's crying out and petitioning God for yourself or someone else."
Lamenting may be helpless, but it's not hopeless. As one gal said, it's the reason why I need Jesus. Otherwise I would feel defeated or without hope. There's the heart of it, right there.
Anglican Bishop and New Testament scholar N. T. Wright has offered insight on lament in an article titled "Five Things to Know About Lament." He says that lament is:
1. a form of praise
2. proof of the relationship
3. a pathway to intimacy with God
4. prayer to God for action
5. participation in the pain of others
The prayer of lament is not the final prayer, he says, it is a prayer in the meantime.
With all of this in mind, I was led to read again the Book of Lamentations. It is a tough read, recounting the horrible sufferings of the Jews during their captivity in Babylon. But right there in the middle of all the depravity and misery and sorrow is Chapter 3. It gives us one of the most beautiful statements of faith which still brings hope and comfort to Christians today in the form of a beloved hymn.
I hope you will take a moment to enjoy it as it was presented by my daughter, Becky Loar, at Deermeadows Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida, with the choir and orchestra directed by Mark Groves. You can see it here, and it is on her recording How Can I Keep From Singing.