Reflections on Lamentation

We recently encountered David’s lamentation on the deaths of Jonathan and Saul right in the center of our study on 1 & 2 Samuel. Not only is this a reminder of the God-honoring act of lamentation, and a model of how to do it well, but it is a reminder that heartfelt lament is not contrary to a life of faith and trust in our sovereign and powerful God.

As we walked through David’s lament in 2 Samuel 1:17-27, we distilled three summary lessons.

1. Lament presses us to see this fallen world from God’s perspective

The standard for how life ought to be is set for us in God’s Word. And we lament experiences and life situations which just do not meet that standard. We lament personal sin and larger-scale tragedy and heartache in this life—illness and accident, self-sufficiency and scandal. In short, we lament that this world is not what God designed it to be.

2. Lament presses us to see God’s truth in ways we don’t see clearly apart from tragedy.

Hardship tests our allegiance to God and His truth. In times of genuine difficulty, do we really believe what God tells us through Paul in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”? This promise is hard to believe when we’ve witnessed, for instance, the untimely death of a teenager. But at such times our grief over the ugliness of this world presses us toward ever stronger trust in God as we discover through our lamentation that His grace remains sufficient and His promises remain true. Lament is not a closing of our eyes to God’s truth; it is an opening of our eyes to see how far we have fallen in our sinful shortsightedness, and how tempting it is to doubt God’s goodness in times of suffering. This is what Jesus was getting at when He taught, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Mat.5:4).

3. Lament presses us to look for the Day when all pain and suffering will finally be finished.

ament clings to the promise of that Day! It ceases striving to perceive this present world as “good enough.” It is only those who lament who can feel the full weight of the sin and suffering here, and tell the truth about it. If this world is all there is, then we need to make ourselves comfortable with all the evil it includes. But when we know we were made for a better world, and when we are reminded from God’s Word that this is precisely what He promised us, we lament what we see here and now as part of our longing for what lies ahead.

I am glad our women are setting aside an evening for corporate lament this month. But I wonder, is lamentation a regular part of your personal engagement with God?