Family

September 05 2013
96

1029021424 for ADF  9:13
There are days when I feel immobilized by all the pain in this world. I’ve had quite a few of those in the last few weeks. Days when despite the sunshine, I see clouds of gray. Days when I wonder where God is, where hope is to be found, when relief will come.

Sometimes this is personal pain. More often, it’s pain carried by someone I love. And then, there is all.the.angst — the burdens borne by our big, wild, crazy world. I’ve lived long enough to see too much ugliness, too much suffering, too much.

I’ve tried cutting myself off from news sources. And that helps for a while, at least until reality intervenes at some other juncture in my life. You can only hide for so long, it seems.

I’ve tried focusing on the small graces of every day life. And that helps considerably. Counting gifts is good therapy, and a habit that I’ve lived with for a very long time now.

But, in and around the thanksgiving, there are those other days. The days that feel like —

massive overwhelm,
uncertainty deep in my soul,
tears beneath the tears,
knots within knots within knots.

And on such days, words escape me, gratitude is much harder to find, and I sense myself suffering what Madeleine L’Engle used to describe as the flu-like symptoms of atheism, the temporary variety.

          Where are you?
          How could you?
          This is too much!

These are the words that rise, the only words that seem to be appropriate in the midst of the ‘slough of despond.’ And these are also, by some miraculous gift of Goodness, the words that slowly but surely open the door to grace and truth.

These are the words of lament.

And they are worthy words indeed. They are also necessary words, healing words, honest words. And they are words that weave in and out of our Holy Book, enriching the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, the prophets, even the words of Jesus himself.

How is it that we so easily forget this beautiful language? How is it that too many voices in too many churches seem to sing in only one key? How is it that we have not made room for the full spectrum of human emotion, including the deep sorrow that we all carry? The deep sorrow of being human in a broken and sinful world.

After many years of reading and study, I have yet to find a single word in scripture that is trite. Not one. Yet I see such words, I hear them, I cringe at them in so many parts of the larger Christian community. I choose to believe that the motives behind such words are good ones, that perhaps those who use truisms, clichés, and bromides have not yet been introduced to the lovely language we’re given, the words and questions that comprise over half of the ancient psalter, language that speaks for us when we cannot find our voice.

“How long will you hide your face from me. . .”
“Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself!”
“O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear; do not stand aloof, O     God.”

Every word, every question, every complaint — aimed directly at God. For where else can we go when the questions overwhelm us, when the answers seem buried in a land we cannot see? Who else is there to hear the cries of our hearts, to carry the weight of our tears?

It is lament that carries us directly into the presence of God when we are feeling furthest away; it is lament that addresses our unanswerable questions honestly, even profoundly; it is lament that opens the door to worship.

Each of the psalms quoted above winds its way around to acknowledging something fiercely important and true: God is God. Mysterious? Yes. Inscrutable? Sometimes. Unreachable? NEVER.

For this is where each of the three laments listed above ultimately lands:

“But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”
“Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love.”
“Let them know that you, whose name is the LORD — that you alone are the           Most High over all the earth.”

That you alone are the Most High over all the earth. When I am sinking beneath the unbearable weight of the broken hearts in this world, these are the words I need to hear, the acknowledgement I must come to and own.

But.

But. . . I cannot, indeed, I must not, get to those words without first singing out the plaintive words of lament, without first acknowledging my pain, my confusion, my sorrow.

Lament leads me where I need to be. Lament loosens something inside, opens doors and windows into the soul and the psyche. Lament, even the angriest, darkest lament, allows me to be me, to be real, to be honest.

And when someone comes alongside me when I am in the midst of the grief, I need that someone to listen, maybe even to offer some harmony in that minor key. I do not need reminders of God’s goodness, God’s plan, God’s sovereignty.

Not yet.

I’ll get there. But when I’m sitting in the in-between, when I am walking through the valley — please let me sing the sad song for as long as I need to. And if you can, sing it with me. Then, together, we can turn the corner as the psalmists do. We can pour out the pain and make room for the praise, we can sit in the ashes and reach for the roses, we can discover again that we are safe in the presence of God.

And there is not one thing cliché about that.

 

96 comments

  1. This was the first thing in my Feedly this morning. Oh, friend. I’ve never heard (or remembered) Madeleine’s definition of acute atheism. But I’ve suffered from it. This “where are you” syndrome. And you’re so right. We need the freedom to pour it all out before we can get to the “But…” We are often afraid of lament, I think–of our own and others. But I’m grateful for friends (like you) who will choose to sit in the ashes with me, sing that sad song, and then finally catch a whiff of His fragrance.

    Lament does not have to threaten our faith. It can deepen it. Thank you for this.

    Reply
    • Oh, amen, Sandy – ‘Lament does not have to threaten our faith. It can deepen it.” Beautifully put. Thank you for your encouragement over these many years now (3 – can you believe it?) and thank you for commenting here and for the RT, too.

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  2. This is the first time I’ve heard anyone talk about lamenting and the process we go through to get back to the Lord. Thank you. I have been there and always felt it was so wrong even though it eventually brought me closer to God.

    Reply
    • It is a HUGE hole in so much of western Christianity, and I haven’t quite figured out all the reasons for it. I only know it makes me weary when people are not willing to allow room for this deeply important and very necessary part of life. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

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  3. I’m so grateful for your words this morning, Diana. This week I’ve been thinking how Jesus must long for us to be with him in his suffering (because, of course, wherever his children are hurting, there he is). He calls us to stay up with him, to pray, and to lament, but I too easily fall asleep.

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    • Oh, yes, Christie – so beautifully put! How he must long for us to sit with him – and to allow him to sit with us when we grieve. Why are we in such a hurry to skip past this step? I too easily fall asleep, too, but I am learning more and more about how to do this as I sit with the Jesus in others, as I weep with those who weep. Thanks for stopping by, I am so grateful for your presence out here in the interweb community.

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  4. At a literary festival I attended two years ago, I sat in a session about lament. One woman on the panel had written a book about lament and she brought the worship leader from her church who led us in singing a psalm off lament. They had a panel discussion, too, but the singing…it offered a place of honest, beautiful, minor key lament I had never heard a Christian worship leader invite people into. Why don’t more acknowledge this reality? The psalmists model it so powerfully.

    Reply
    • Yes!! Actually singing in that minor key can be rich, meaningful and so deeply satisfying. I do not have the full answer to your query, but I think it has something to do with our fear of deep emotion and our misplaced belief that feeling deeply is a sign of ill health. We want so badly to be well and don’t realize we’ve given up (or covered over) a primary and profoundly biblical way of getting there. Thank you for coming by this morning, Ann. I appreciate it.

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      • Patricia Spreng

        I led worship for 15 years or so … my heart cannot yet release the story of how strongly I feel about including lament and repentance in worship… and how that was not well received. Only using the happy/clappy rhythm of praise kind of drove me to the confusion of a deep sense of inauthenticity… the lyrics were all true… I simply needed to include authentic lamenting as part of my “joyful noise” …. or groaning, as the Spirit might say. Maybe I still sound of ill health… = )

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        • One of the most beautiful places I’ve found for including the minor key music is in Taize worship. It is not exactly lament, but it comes close to the feel of it. It is so healing and rich and real. Have you done that at all? But I so get this sadness and this frustration with the refusal of so many in leadership (and in the pews) to acknowledge our wholeness as human creatures – the broken bits as well as the put-on-a-happy-face bits. You do not sound of ill health at all, my friend. Not at all.

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          • Patricia Spreng

            Yes, Taize is so rich… but isn’t used in my church… sometimes, I just sit with it and let the Spirit do his work in me. I am so very thankful for you, Diana.

    • I remember that session! It was so moving.

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      • Those presenters touched on something profound and true and needful. I wish more people were writing/presenting on this topic. We shy away from lament, in fact, we downright ignore it most of the time. And that, in and of itself, is reason for it!

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  5. Patricia Spreng

    A great big, slow, loving hug…and a sigh of relief. Thank you so much, Diana.

    Reply
    • You are so welcome, Pat. And I am so very grateful for people like you who acknowledge this truth and are willing, time and time again, to sit with people in the ashes of life. Thank you.

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    • Apparently, disqus only lets us have so many replies in a string – so I’ll reply to that little comment up above here – I am thankful for you, too, Pat. A lot. Why don’t you do a little exploring and see if any of the churches near you offer a monthly taize service? We do it at our small Covenant church on the first Sunday evening of the month, and the Methodist church across town does it on the 4th Sunday. I imagine some Catholic churches do it on occasion. No matter where it is, just sitting in the service is healing, absorbing the soft light, the reading of the word, the sung prayers. Lovely.

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  6. Ro elliott

    I love this…I am walking along side my niece whose marriage is being ripped to shreds….she has 3 small boys…God is teaching me this…to walk through the valley…sometimes crying with…sometimes quite…but holding a quite confidence that God will see her through…it is not me…my words….but it is His love…when I rest in that truth…I can let some one walk to Him without needing to fix it….great post

    Reply
    • Yes, Ro. Walking through the valley – offering tears and silence. And few, if any words. We all need space to do this, don’t we? Shortcuts do not work, but we keep trying to bypass this important work.

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  7. “Where are you?
    How could you?
    This is too much!”
    The path to true healing begins with this as its background music.

    It takes courage to step onto that path. God oftens waits for me to be honest and stop pretending. He can take my hard questions. He invites them. I need to give voice to them. A most excellent post!

    I am thankful for the friends He has given who know how to walk the path with me.

    Reply
    • Exactly. God waits for us to be honest and real and he does invite the hard questions. He’s willing to wrestle all night with us. Thanks for your good words here, Marilyn.

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  8. It’s such a hurtful gap in the evangelical experience. When I found myself grieving, “in process,” so few people were comfortable with it. I felt so misunderstood and out of place in worship. It was one of the most faith deepening, meaningful times of my life and most of my Christian friends just wanted me to “get over it” as quickly as possible. We need to lament. It is SO important. Thank you for this beautiful reminder!

    Reply
    • I am so sorry for this lost feeling, Christie. It’s just not right, that’s all there is to it. Oh, for more preaching on the beauty and necessity of lament – it’s straight from scripture and is one of the most powerful testimonials I know to the veracity of the Book we live by. And ‘get over it?’ GIVE ME A BREAK. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I am grateful for your lovely voice out here in the cyberwaves.

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  9. Love this.

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    • Thank you, Tanya. Yours is one of the voices singing this song so beautifully across the web. I am grateful for you.

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  10. Tina/@teenbug

    O, Diana!

    I’m currently in a season of Lament. I needed your wise words today friend.

    Thank you so much,
    Teen
    P.S. I forgot to answer your question about the straw and the potatoes. You just stab the potato with the straw. It’s the only way. Try it!

    Reply
    • Seasons of lament come for all of us – I am sorry for the pain you are living through and I wait with you for the movement from minor to major. But in the meantime, take the time you need to wail and weep. It is healing and restorative in every way I can think of. (And I’ll try that trick someday soon – my grandkids would be so impressed!)

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  11. “I don’t like people who have never fallen or stumbled. Their virtue is lifeless and it isn’t of much value. Life hasn’t revealed its beauty to them.” (Boris Pasternak)

    I read the above words early this morning and it seems you and he would agree.

    The “only one key” that much of Christendom sings is a very lonely (and perhaps even unrelate-able) one to those who have fallen or stumbled or even those who just plain hurt. Maybe it takes a risky kind of honesty to admit that sometimes grey settles in – but I agree with Boris, those people are perhaps the best candidates to really GET the beauty life reveals. To hear more music than what’s available in that “one key.”

    Reply
    • What a great quote, Kelli! thanks for putting me anywhere near such brilliance. “Their virtue is lifeless. . . ” Yes, I think he’s hit on something important there. And I totally agree – it is in living into the gray and the pain that we are given the eyes to truly behold the beauty. Amen. ( Personally, I like the minor key stuff, always have.)

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  12. I love me a good lament. Especially when friends like you sing along.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Megan. I’ll sing with you any day of the week. You know, your words to me this week were the inspiration for this whole essay, don’t you? When pain knocks us down at the knees, love and lament are the language we need. Encouragement? Not so much. There is a time and place for that, but learning to be sensitive to when to use which language is such an important part of this journey. Thank you, thank you for speaking this beauty into me the other day

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    • Can we all sing together?

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      • Yes, please! I do love harmony in a minor key.

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  13. I think this is why I love the Psalms so much. After the lament that we can all relate to, there is a “but God” at the end. It’s why I write. I need to remember that at the end of my lament, God remains. This is so very good Diana. I could feel the cadence of lament at the beginning. Love it.

    Reply
    • Yes, Shelly. I, too, love the psalms. Most especially the psalms of lament. And even, on occasion the imprecatory psalms -when all that angst is spilled out against the enemies. . . except, it’s not directed to them but to God. I find such encouragement when I read these heartfelt, old words. And yes, God is always there, right there, in the middle of the lament and beyond. Thanks for coming by and commenting.

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  14. Diana,

    I have been following this blog for a while now and whenever I read your writing I am so blessed. I am also “retired” but caring for my dad. This time of the year is a season of lament for me. I have come to expect the ups and downs of grieving past losses each fall. August through early January is marked by the death anniversary and birthday of my mother and the three siblings I have lost (two of them when I was a child. Grief visits more often then and I am blessed to have friends who lament with me. I have learned to walk along with those who lament, because of my experiences. Thank you for writing about this so beautifully.

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for these kind words, Carol. Praying for you as I type, that this season of lament will be rich and real and that the corner to praise will come when the time is right.

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  15. Michael Card has said over and over that lament is worship. Yes.
    http://youtu.be/Pr3mNGtxd-I

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    • You know, I saw this comment on my phone and responded to it then – about 3 hours ago or so. Wonder what happened to it? thanks for this and thanks for the link, too. I love Michael Card’s work.

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  16. harmonizing, even if a bit off key
    my heart beside yours
    our eyes turned toward Him
    even when filled with questioning pain
    “how long?”
    the “but still” will come in time
    and it will surely be the right time

    Reply
    • So lovely, Karin. I love your poetry. Just love it. I am so grateful to be subscribed to your blog, but your email subscription is one of those that doesn’t easily allow me to track back to the original, so I don’t often get to leave comments at your site. Please know that I read every one, that I am grateful for every one. May you be blessed in this season of lament, my friend. And may you find permission to sing sad songs whenever you need to do so.

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  17. I’m back for a second comment!
    I’ve just read this aloud to my husband and loved it all over again. Together we were encouraged by it!

    Reply
    • Thanks for letting me know that, Marilyn – so glad you both were encouraged.

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  18. Diana, I don’t know when or where I’ve seen the topic of lament covered so beautifully. Thank you. Ever since my deep depression in my twenties and early thirties, I have loved the Psalms, for all the reasons you wrote about.

    Love you, friend. I’m thankful God crossed our paths and has joined our hearts.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much, Dena, for these so kind words. I, too, am grateful. Beyond words, actually. Love to you.

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  19. Mary Beth

    Thank you for this reminder Diana. I come from a tradition that recited the book of Lamentations every year during Holy Week. It’s very powerful. And now I’m going through my own season of lamenting, I lost my son 3 months ago and this is confirmation that it’s ok that I’m sad, and questioning and mourning my loss and yes even mad at God sometimes. It will come back around to praise and peace but I’m not there yet. Thank you for reminding me that is ok.

    Reply
    • It is absolutely okay, Mary Beth. It is truth, it is needful, it is evidence of deep faith and connection. Three months ago – oh, my!! That is so rippingly fresh. Make space for all the pain, and walk with it into the presence of God. . . even when that presence ‘feels’ like absence. Thanks so much for commenting. Praying for you as you walk this oh-so-hard road.

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  20. Donna

    Lament is honesty – why do we think God would want polite platitudes from us, when we’re screaming on the inside?
    Hmmmm… maybe because that’s so often what other people seem to want. People are often very uncomfortable with other’s pain and grief, and just want them to ‘move on!’ so maybe we assume that’s what God wants from us too.
    I remember at one time in church there was a true song of lament that we sang regularly… but it was sung in an up-tempo, ‘rejoicing’ way, and it grated horribly on me every time we sang it.

    Reply
    • That last little story is a perfect picture of how poorly we do lament in most church settings. Not all, not by a long shot, but still too many for comfort. I remember a conversation I had with a friend who works in the hair salon where I get my hair cut. She went to a funeral of a former church member of ours who had taken his own life. They were attending a different church by then, with a large, warehouse-style auditorium. 700 people were there, in shock and sadness and overwhelming grief. The lead pastor jumped onto the platform, shouted into the microphone something like, “This is not a sad day, we’re here to rejoice! Our brother is in heaven!” And I felt like slugging the guy. This young woman in the hair salon is not a church attender and she was absolutely dumbfounded that this man made no room for the palpable grief in the room. The children of the dead man, however, did make some space for it in their comments and that made the entire service more bearable somehow. It made a lasting imprint on me, as you can tell. Stuffing, covering, denying, ignoring – all of these are signs of deep ill health, it seems to me. And too many people aren’t even aware of it until the day when things come unraveled. God gave us tears for a reason – why do we try so very hard to hold them back and to deny them to others when needed? It’s a mystery to me and is part of the reason why I chose to write on this topic today.

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  21. Eve Anderson

    Thank you. I know this language well and this month it has hit full force. Thank you for these beautiful words.

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    • You are so very welcome, Eve. I am so sorry that you are in the depths of the valley just now.

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  22. Oh Diana, this is profoundly beautiful. Just a few weeks ago our Pastor spoke about not quoting Rom. 8:28 to someone who is suffering. It is so true. There are no words that can minister when we are in such pain. We have to walk through the lament before we reach the place of trust and praise. I don’t think the Lord minds the temporary atheism, for it inevitably leads us back to Him. “Who have I in heaven but You?” He is always willing to give us the time.

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    • Amen, Linda. I’m thrilled to read that your pastor said this important truth. Why are we in such a hurry? The work of grief is good work – why do we want to rush through it? Thanks so much for reading and commenting tonight.

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  23. Wow…is this powerful and beautiful, Diana. A keeper – to print and tuck in my Bible. So rich. So wise. So full of grace.

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    • Thank you, Patricia. You are a good and kind friend.

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  24. I’d love if you would write a book about that. Truly. We need that book.

    But if not? Just keep praying for the rest of us, to know that it’s ok to feel like this from time to time, and for long stretches of time.

    You’re a gift to the Internets, and to the world.

    And to me.

    Reply
    • Wow, Jen. What would that look like? I will admit that working on this – and then seeing these responses has made me wonder about it a little. A book. Hmmm… will you pray about that with me? Thank you so much for your kind, kind words, Jennifer. YOU are a gift to all of us, my dear. Huge. Just huge.

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      • We should talk about this. If a book feels too daunting, maybe a shorter booklet or something for people to work through — not only for the one in the middle of suffering, but for the ones who he/she needs to walk alongside.

        Just. Something. We need something. Case in point:

        Yesterday, I had an extended conversation via text messaging (not ideal, but our only choice) with a dear friend who has gone through almost every kind of trial imaginable. It’s been unrelenting the last five or six years. It’s been marital trouble, crisis with a teenager, unemployment, financial trouble, chronic pain, friendship troubles. … And this is an intelligent, spiritual woman who knows where to find the answers in her Bible. (They’re probably underlined and highlighted.) She could use a book like this, to help her know that it’s OK to sing a sad song, to let her know it’s OK to get honest with God and with herself. To be mad, even.

        And as her friend, I could use a book like this to know how to respond. I’m at a loss, sometimes, to know what to say when she sends a message to let me know that another bomb dropped on her life. As her friend, I also know where a lot of those answers are. I’ve got them underlined, too. And I know that sometimes, it’s best just to sit “with,” rather than talk “to.” But at times, you really need some words to wrap around the pain or the situation, and Diana, you’ve found some of those words here in this essay — helpful words that don’t try to turn a minor-key song into a Disney themepark song.

        So. I’m going to be praying about this for you, and would love to talk more about it if you want to.

        xox

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        • Thanks so much, my friend. LOVE the Disney theme park comment. And that is exactly what I find so discouraging in far too many places.

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  25. V

    A very soul-affirming piece of writing.

    Others worried that I had “lost my faith”
    due to my black rage over my sister’s pain.
    Cancer for herself – a battle currently won.
    Cancer for her son…at the same time.
    Son died 13 Sept 2012.

    God can handle my soul’s angry cry.
    I have a deep security in this.
    Even if others cannot see how yet.

    Reply
    • V – I’m grateful to read this hyphenated word – ‘soul-affirming’ – because that was my intent with this piece. I am deeply sorry for the pain in your family circle – and yes, God can handle your anger. Beautiful comment – thank you very much.

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  26. Addie

    Yes. Beautiful. Thank you Diana.

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    • Ah, you’re welcome, Addie. Thanks for coming by and reading and then letting me know you were here. Appreciate it.

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  27. God appreciates honest worship. In fact, “The Father is out looking for those who are simply and honestly themselves before Him in their worship (John 4:24, MSG). As Shelly pointed out, the psalms of David are examples to follow, such as chapters 10, 13, 31, and 102. David expressed dejection, bitterness, anguish, discouragement, sorrow, fear, depression, and more. Then he would often affirm several positive things he knew about God.

    Another psalmist affirmed: “When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul” (Psalm 94:19). Just as He brings joy to us, I can’t help but think we bring joy to Him, when we honestly express the anguish of our souls to Him, then reaffirm our trust with heartfelt worship.

    I also agree with Jennifer: There is much potential here for a book!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Nancy, for you continuing encouragement! And I’m prayerfully thinking about that whole idea Jennifer threw into the pot.

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  28. Thank you for this. I have often thought that including lament in corporate worship would be an excellent way to create a safe place for those who are hurting–a place where they can experience God’s presence in the middle of their pain. It seems so wrong that church can be the hardest place to go when one is struggling. Lament would be such a balm–and, as you say, it is modeled for us in scripture! But too often we are told by leaders to drown our pain in service to others, or to focus on God’s goodness instead of our sorrow. Such admonishment leaves one feeling so very wrong and alone–and, if headed, can become just another way to try to work ourselves to God.

    I saw Michael Card mentioned above. His book, A Sacred Sorrow, explores the subject of lament. I found it very helpful.

    Reply
    • I liked that Card book, too. But I like your comment even more, to tell you the truth. You have hit on a hugely important piece in all of this – that too much emphasis on rushing through the pain can indeed morph into a kind of ‘works righteousness’ thinking. Thanks so much for leaving these thought-provoking words, Elena. I’m grateful.

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  29. Diana, there are very few blogs that I print to file—“a go to place” of truth file. I am glad I scrolled down my blog feed far enough to get this since I haven’t been on for a few days. I heard the lament of a friend this morning and I was sharing in it, but she was turning to the hope of redemption. I wasn’t ready. I was feeling some guilt but your words gave me permission to sit in this time for a while. My friend, she voiced her lament and I realized I hadn’t voiced mine own words. I was only feeling the sorrow deeply, asking the questions with fierce passion but only in my mind. My lament will find it’s voice most likely in a yellow pad. I realize I need to put it there and wait like a watchman until I see Hope on the horizon.

    My 2cents from someone who only reads books and doesn’t write them. I am with JDL. God has given you something here to share. Sometimes I feel bad that I write about the tough issues like depression on my blog. I hear the whisper, “no one wants the reminder that we live in a broken world,” But then I remember some one needs the reminder that they aren’t alone.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for these good words, Dea. And I’m glad that these words here gave you permission of some kind to still be sitting in the lament, watching for the dawn. It’s a necessary place to be from time to time. And YES – someone always needs that reminder. And I thank you for writing about it at your place – it’s important work to do.

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  30. Diana, I wandered over here after noticing some of your comments on the Junia Project website, and what a treat to find this post. My mom has late-stage Alzheimer’s, and there have been many moments of lament this past year as I make the two-hour drive home after visiting her and my dad. I have found that during that drive the language of lament truly does carry me into the presence of God. Thanks for this beautiful piece!

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    • Thanks for wandering over, Gail – always glad to introduce people to the wonderful work happening here at A Deeper Story/Family/Church. Hope you’ll stick around and check out the other storytellers. And until January of this year, I made the exact same distance of a trip to see my mom (who is 92 and a widow and slowly dementing). Then we moved her up closer to us and though the laments continue at some level, they are filtered through a screen of gratitude that she is nearby. I am sorry for this journey in your life and completely get it. (I’ve written about mine on this site at least three times – once about my MIL and twice about my own mom. It’s the scourge of our country right now and it’s such a hard road.)

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  31. Diana, this is so beautiful, and it so needs to be said. Much of the contemporary evangelical wing of the church has lost the ability to lament. And in so doing, it has chosen to live in denial.

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    • I agree, Rob – we have let this great language languish from underuse. Thanks so much for you kind words and encouragement.

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  32. David Jarrett

    Diana,
    This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read in a long time. Probably partially due to the rawness of emotion I am feeling at the loss of one of my very best friends just a week ago. I have encouraged others walking this road with me to ‘feel everything you need to feel’ and you have given a much better description of what that means than I ever could. I would like to repost with credit to you if you will allow me. Many friends could benefit from the wisdom you’ve shared.
    Grace & Peace
    David Jarrett

    Reply
    • Of course you may re-post an excerpt from this post, if you then give credit and link back to the ADS/ADF website, just like Rachel did it in her list yesterday. I am so very sorry for the loss of your friend, David, and am grateful that these words were helpful to you in the midst of that grief. And you do need to ‘feel everything you need to feel,’ oh, yes! Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

      Reply
  33. Dear Diana:

    This brings permission, peace, and sweetly, leads me back to praise. Thank you!

    Reply
    • I’m glad, Suzanne! Thanks for coming by.

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  34. Dan McDonald

    Thank-you for a beautiful expression of what it is to lament and how the Bible is full of laments, questions, and looking to God for answers and sometimes being made to walk in the sort of faith that learns to trust even when answers are not speedily forthcoming. Thank-you.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Dan, for your words of encouragement. I, for one, am deeply grateful that the Bible contains so many examples of laments and questions. I’m glad that you are, too.

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  35. Shoshana Lund

    A friend passed this blog along to me, and I’m so grateful that she did. Before reading this, I felt very alone in my struggle with grief and Christianity. I’ve been a Christian all my life, and so is my family. Last November my youngest brother (21) took his life. He dearly loved God, but struggled with mental illness. I was 4.5 months pregnant with my first baby when he died, and the whole world dissolved into powder beneath me. I desperately needed my Christian friends and my church to be there for me and my husband, but most of them steered clear of me, pretended everything was fine, or tried to cheer me up. Only a couple have had the courage to walk alongside. I really want to go back to church, but how can I? If I have to smile when I feel like weeping, force small talk when I want to rage against this horrifying reality I now live with, and compose myself when I want to crumple at the altar, then why should I bother?

    If anyone has some insight into this, please share it. I don’t want to be isolated, but it feels like the only safe place for lament and grief are within the four walls of my house.

    Reply
    • Dear Shoshana – this place right here – this is a safe place for you to grieve, to wonder, to find comfort, to find presence. This is so, so hard. And I am truly sorry that the church you are a part of does not know how to speak (or even sit with) the language of lament. This entire post was written because of a comment my son-in-law made to me about a couple in his church who lost twin babies at 25 weeks and how there were more people from the husband’s workplace at the memorial service than there were from the church community. This really bothered him and he said to me, “We don’t know how to do sad very well, do we? We turn away, it scares us. . .” And I reflected on that powerful statement and felt led to write this piece. It doesn’t fit the usual niche here – of family related themes – but it still felt so important to put down. And just look at the comments here — lots of folks have had the same struggle that you’re having. So I think this was a God thing, this post. And YOU are one of the primary reasons I felt the urgency I did to write it down. I didn’t know you that week, but God did. God does. Please know that others will be praying for you and will be willing to walk with you through this painful, hard place. My email is dtrautwein at gmail dot com – feel free to write to me personally if you need to talk it out at any point. Many, many blessings to you, dear Shoshana.

      Reply
      • Dear Diana,

        Thank you so much for your encouraging and warm words. I’ll be coming around here more often, as it seems like a place with genuine Believers “doing” the Word out of real love. Your reply, along with those after yours, had me welling up with tears. I could feel the love of Christ shining out from you all, and it was so incredibly encouraging. I know things may not be a whole lot different at my church, but I really want to go back now, and I feel strengthened by the faith that you and others have shared. Thanks again, so much!

        Love,
        Shoshana

        Reply
        • Thank you, Shoshana, for coming back round and telling us of your encouragement and determination to hang in with your church. Who knows? Maybe you will find a way to teach them this language, to give someone there permission to be real, to speak the grief, to sigh and lament. Your words this week have heartened me in my own ‘work’ of writing in this space and my own (and a few others, here and there), because we never know who needs the message we’ve been given to share. I’m grateful you came here and that you’ll be back. Many blessings.

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    • Shoshana, I’m so deeply sorry for your loss. I too lost my younger brother, though not to suicide. However, two of my own children have tried to take their lives. I understand a little of your pain. Our world is very quiet in the midst of grief and pain, especially when it involves something many understand very little about like suicide. And the church as the Body of Christ is even quieter. A friend who will quietly sit in the ashes with us, wrap their arms around us while we weep, and not be quick to expect us to move on is rare. I can’t reach through this screen and be there with you, (but would in a heartbeat if I could!) but I can and will pray for you to the One who can heal and restore and redeem. Beauty can rise out of the ashes, but it takes time. One day you will look back and be amazed at how far you’ve come. Not today. Not tomorrow. But one day you will have crossed through the valley. One day you will smile and it will be real, laugh and genuinely enjoy it, feel again the sun on your face, the wind in your hair, and the deep love of the Father in your soul. One day, the world will burst into color again and you will breathe deeply of what it means to be alive. For today, it’s enough just to breathe. For today, I will lift you high and wrap you in love and speak your name before almighty God. For today, across the miles I will sit quietly in the ashes with you, so that you will know you are not alone. Never, ever alone. And I will give thanks for this precious new life within you. A gift of unspeakable and amazing grace.

      With love,
      Cindee…a fellow traveler along the way

      Reply
    • Shoshana – what a lovely name – I have struggled with grief over two suicides. With one, I actually wailed and lamented greatly. With the other, I kept my grief in. I still have not managed to get out all of that stuffed-down grief. I highly recommend lamenting. It might be that you will be the one who has to lead the way in showing your church how to be real in the midst of grief. I don’t personally know any people who were taught to lament. The people in your church weren’t taught. And we all need somebody to teach us… or maybe it isn’t you who will do that. Maybe you will wait to go back until you feel a tiny bit less grief. Or maybe you will go somewhere else. There are probably options in there that I haven’t considered. I just don’t want you to consider NOT lamenting. That would be another tragedy, and you’ve had enough of that.

      Reply
    • So much wisdom has been shared here already. I want to echo what Carolyn said that so many in the church have never been taught how to grieve alongside the grieving, and so we don’t know how to respond to the awkwardness of grief.

      I’m remembering you to the Lord today, Shoshana, that He would be close to you in this heartbreak, and that He would move in your spirit to help you know when and how and where to return to church. It may be that your own openness with your grief is the permission another needs to be open with their own.

      Reply
    • Shoshana, I’m so very sorry for all the loss you’ve experienced. I’m also terribly sad with you that your church and friends “steered clear.” When we don’t know what to say, and we say nothing, it makes it feel as if we don’t care. I think we’re uncomfortable with grief because it makes us remember that we are mortal and that we are one phone call away from grief. I, too, lost a baby to miscarriage (though not as late as you; I can’t imagine the pain that you feel over that ripping away) and had many Christian friends who hurt me with their nonchalance or “cheer up” words. I am glad you had a couple of friends who could stand with you and let you lament. I pray that you can find a safe place to grieve, and that you can find (or help create) a church where you don’t have to put on a happy face. I am praying for you today, and wishing I could sit with you over cup of hot tea or coffee and just listen. May God Himself wrap His arms of peace around you and hold you today.

      Reply
    • Sadly, Shoshana, it seems the church has forgotten how to sing the song of lament. We live in this land of abundance, and when we experience loss, we don’t seem able to find the right words; we’ve forgotten the tune in that rich, minor key.

      I’ve known Diana for some time now, and I can tell you she means every syllable she’s written here. She believes it’s good and healthy and necessary for us to cry, moan, and wail before God and that He’s big enough and good enough to handle it. And, He will meet us in our lament.

      I’m so glad a friend sent you over this way. I’m singing in a minor key myself these days. It’s a privilege to sing with. Pausing now to whisper prayer that you’ll sense the presence of your loving Father even in the darkness.

      Grace and peace to you, Shoshana.

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  36. Jennifer

    Diana. I did not know until I read this that I am lamenting the loss of a family I wanted but do not have. Tears beneath the tears. Ache in my core. Lament indeed. You are a gift. And we must must must allow people to sit with their feelings. I often remind my friends that they are allowed to feel what they feel. There is no wrong thing. Thank you, wise woman.

    Reply
  37. Anne-Marie

    Hi Diana,

    This was sooo good. We have walked the paths of lament for years with unremitting challenges in the health of one child and in the choices of another. So often the comments of others are aimed at quenching the flow when we are expressing the depth of fatigue, stress, or the fact that one child might wind up in a very dark place, or the other literally die. Doctors as well love to blame the patient and can say awful things when there are no easy answers.These only add to the burden.

    It is a blessing to hear a gentle and honest voice, lamenting. It is like rain on a weary land, I think. Somehow, I don’t think your response would be ‘there are worse things’ or blaming, if someone you love is in a difficult spot not of their making.

    Life can put us in those places we would never expect. But until it’s personally experienced, it can be tough to really get at gut level. I wonder how many times I’ve been insensitive to others in things I haven’t experienced, without even knowing it.

    We all need so much grace. Thank you for being a grace-full voice.

    Blessings,

    Reply
    • Thanks for these lovely words, Anne-Marie. And I am more sorry than I can say for the sorrows you have (and are) living through. And no, I would not (and many people I know would not) say to you ‘there are worse things.’ (Although – and here’s the part where I get real – I would say that to myself. It’s almost a knee jerk reaction and I’m slowly, slowly learning to give myself the same kind of care I would offer to another.) Thanks so much for stopping by.

      Reply
  38. Anne-Marie

    You are so right! We are our toughest critics.Thanks for your kind reply.

    Reply

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