Sandra Godley explores lamenting and its purpose and role in our worship

Another familiar fluttering sensation hits the pit of my stomach as I hear of yet another person who has died due to the Covid virus. I lost my aunt to Covid a year ago and I remember the deep sense of agony knowing that none of our family were with her at the end.

More friends than I care to number, confess their music business/ministry has all but collapsed. This kind of news, no matter where I am, causes me to look up to the skies and lament.

What is a lament?

  • A lament is a unique kind of expression which is different to crying. It’s a form of prayer that isn’t dressed up with fancy words, it’s raw, sorrowful, unedited and sometimes just plain aggressive. Grief and pain remind us that we are in good company, as Jesus lamented during the final days of his life on earth:

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me.

Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

[Luke 22 v42]

  • Lamenting is a form of ‘thinking out loud’. It doesn’t offer explanations but does prove that we have a relationship with God as the ultimate source of life. Sometimes our ‘thinking out loud’ thoughts are a bit messy, a bit colourful perhaps, but I think God embraces it all, beautifully.

Scholars estimate that two thirds of the Psalms are laments. They are very personal words from hearts full of anguish, questions, complaint and heartache:

“Long enough, God – you’ve ignored me long enough.

I’ve looked at the back of your head long enough.

Long enough I’ve carried this ton of trouble,

lived with a stomach full of pain.

Long enough my arrogant enemies have looked down their noses at me.”

[Psalm 13 v1-2]

As individuals, sometimes we just need to give ourselves permission to speak what’s on our mind, verbalise the tension and have a good old chat to God about what’s wrong.

Songs of Lament

Laments have a place in our worship at both corporate and personal levels. Whilst they can often be neglected in corporate praise, despite its prominence in the Bible text, they remain a powerful weapon to bring down strongholds and see answers to prayer.

Laments have a role in tying us together as Christians, with one voice in the midst of crisis and sorrow.  It’s my belief that as Christian musicians and singers we can write laments for ourselves, for those who already know God AND for those who have yet to find him. Helping ALL people find God is what it’s all about.

When you grasp this revelation, you’ll see that lamenting will drive you to stand in the gap and lament perhaps for someone you’ve never known or even met before. In the midst of exhaustion, confusion and disappointment, you can turn to the one who truly understands your sorrows even if you think the answer to your prayer has been delayed. However, with confidence, we can draw close to God and find grace to help in time of need, that’s gotta be great news!

“I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms – I’m celebrating your rescue.

I’m singing at the top of my lungs, I’m so full of answered prayers.”

[Psalm 13 v5-6]

What role can Christian creatives play?

My huge encouragement to all singers, musicians, creatives etc is to think about including and weaving in an intentional moment of lament as part of your creative offering. It could be a song, vocal poetry, play, film etc. Take a look around your community, sense the mood of how people are feeling right now and create moments of lament. You won’t have to go too far right now in order to meet someone who needs your help in that area.

  • Who will write the song for a widow who has lost her husband due to Covid?
  • Who will create vocal poetry for the numerous grandchildren who have lost grandparents due to Covid?
  • Who will write a song for a community who are surviving on food banks? 
  • Who will write a song for the unchurched, non-religious person who is seeking God?

I think you’ll agree, we have plenty of work we can do!

So, if you’ve never experienced lamenting before, I am sure you will do at some point! I believe there’s a call on our lives to embrace the act of lamenting for the sake of our own mental health, our well-being and our spiritual growth.