“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, NIV)
Our theme of communal lament for this lenten season came out of a sense of the deep grief and pain many in our community have carried this past year. So many have been touched by chronic illness, job loss, relational break, death, injury, loneliness, depression—hurts that linger and abide in our bodies and in the depths of our souls.
As a staff we took some time to ask this question: what might the season of Lent have for our community this year? . . . and lament was the word that continued to resurface among us. We need to lament, we decided, and we need to do it together.
What even is lament? As Doug Stewart reflected in his entry, “It’s more than just grief. Grief and loss and pain just come because you suffer something. Lament seems to be a deliberate choosing to give words to what you’re feeling, thinking, what you’re going through, and bringing them before God and before others.”
Aubrey Sampson, in her book on lament, The Louder Song: Listening for Hope in the Midst of Lament, writes, “Lament is the rope that will keep you tethered to [God’s] presence. Lament helps you hold on to God because it is an honest form of worship and communication with him.”
Lament is truth telling, as hard as it is, in the face of some of the most bewildering, disorienting, and heartbreaking moments of our lives. So what’s the role of communal lament? Unfortunately, many of our Christian communities have not known how to help us lament in our grief. We are often so uncomfortable with suffering that we don’t know how to enter into another’s pain without trying to simply will it away. If lament takes attending, waiting, and being honest, our communities have often failed us by rushing to the pat answers, growing impatient with our questions, simply failing to be present at all. We struggle to lament together in our own fear, anxiety, or pain.
But In the telling and in the hearing of one another’s stories, we can practice communal lament. As we witness to one another’s lives, as we see ourselves in one another’s stories, we can begin to experience the mystery that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 1—the God of all comfort, the Father of all compassion, brings hope and healing to our hearts in and through the ministry of his Spirit among us.