Rediscovering the Lost Biblical Art of Lamentations

How does God want us to deal with the great difficulties of life?

Does he want us to ignore them, to get over them, to power through them, or to be crushed by them?

No.

He wants us to lament over them. That is the great lesson of a little-read passage in the Old Testament prophet Micah. Following Micah, we will see that God actually invites his people to lament over them. He wants us to honestly assess what we’re seeing, and also to pour out our great sorrow to him at what we see.

The Reality of Lament

What is lament? Lament is a passionate expression of grief and sorrow—to mourn, to grieve, to beat one’s breast in anguish. A lament is not whining, complaining, griping or grumbling. It is to say, “Woe is me!” (Micah 7:1): What misery is mine. It sums up the feeling of a grieving mother who has lost a child, or of a widow or widower facing their spouse’s funeral, or of a conquered nation. “Woe is me!” is only used in the most dire, grim, ruinous circumstances.

The Bible is not ashamed of lament. In the Psalms, 60 of the 150 are categorized as lament psalms—40 percent. There is one book in the Bible that is devoted to laments, and it is aptly named Lamentations. Why does the Bible embrace a lament? Because it is honest about human experience. It doesn’t settle for some superficially shallow way of describing what’s going on, as if to pretend that suffering is not serious or that it is just an illusion. We, too, must learn to meaningfully and honestly express the anguish of our hearts, if we are to avoid superficiality or pretense.

Lamenting and Hoping

Micah found many reasons to lament as he looked at Jerusalem in his day. First, godliness had disappeared because godly people seemed to have vanished: “The godly has perished from the earth” (v 2). Second, leaders were corrupt: “The prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul” (v 3). Third, society itself seemed to have gone rotten and trust was always misplaced: “Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend…a man’s enemies are the men of his own house” (v 5-6).

Perhaps some or all of those are not so far from our experience of life today!

So how are we supposed to respond? What does Micah do? He laments: “Woe is me!” (v 1). And then he hopes as he laments:

“But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me” (v 7).

This is how God’s people respond to the great difficulties of life. We lament, and we hope in our lament.

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Source: Church Leaders