Lament as a Gift

I cry out to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe; you are my crag and my stronghold. O Lord, I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you.

Psalm 142:5, 71:3, 88:14

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know the Easter story. Of the nails and the blood and the torn flesh and the cross. Good Friday.

I’ve never liked the phrase, honestly. An upside-down way to describe the pain and grief and despair of this day. Even as a child, I felt twisted up inside when people in church would call the day of Jesus’s crucifixion “Good Friday.” I mean, I understood the reasoning and all. And still do. But it felt – and still feels – dishonest to me.

Several years ago, a relationship in which I had put a gut-wrenching amount of effort and hope came crashing down around me. It was the first time in my adult life that I experienced the sort of grief that cuts right through your skin and muscle to the bone. I remember waking up the next morning, face so puffy from bawling myself to sleep I didn’t even recognize myself in the bedroom mirror. And I remember wondering how a person could survive feeling an emotional pain so deep and overwhelming, an agony of the heart that seeped into every inch of my physical body. Just getting out of bed and walking down the hall to brew coffee felt impossible.

I didn’t know that heartbreak could feel like that. But I know now.

I think Christians don’t spend enough time in this place. The dark of pain.

We wave our palm leaves on palm Sunday and shout (or whisper) “Hosanna!” to celebrate Jesus coming into Jerusalem. We talk about Good Friday and the excruciating experience that must have been for Jesus’s family and followers. And then we jump right into Resurrection Sunday to celebrate life rising from death.

NT Wright recently published an essay on the value of lament in the Christian life. He says, “Lament is what happens when people ask ‘Why?’ and don’t get an answer.” It’s a feeling that God himself feels.

And yet in the face of devastating loss and pain, we Christians are at the ready, armed with silver paint to line the darkness. Instead of sitting in the grief of the world, of our own hearts, and letting God meet us there.

O God, you sent Christ Jesus to be my shepherd and the lamb of sacrifice. Help me to embrace the sorrow of loss, the mystery of salvation, the promise of life rising out of death. Help me to hear the call of Christ and give me courage to follow it. 

Adapted from People’s Companion to the Breviary, Vol. 11


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