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Rediscovering the Lost Art of Lament

Updated: Apr 1

Every human being experiences wounding and grief. This hurt requires a meaningful way of processing our emotions. Lament provides a structure to express our suffering, grief, and myriad feelings. In this blog, I will focus on lament from a Judeo-Christian perspective and draw on the example of Scripture to provide guidance for engaging in a personal lament.
To lament means to express grief for or about something; to mourn, such as to lament a death. Lament means to regret deeply; to deplore; to grieve audibly; to wail.[1]

Why is lamenting so valuable? Lament is a means of self-care. Through lament people can express what has been churning within them. They name their feelings and their condition. At first, this may feel risky. Many in the western world have settled for superficial happiness which results in inauthentic relationships. However, when human beings choose the authentic expression of a full range of emotions, they can experience a profound connection with others.

Dr. Carl Rogers, eminent psychologist, and developer of the theory of Client-Centered Therapy writes, “That which is most deeply personal is most universal.”[2] In other words, learning to lament helps not only the individual but can also provide a significant relational connection with others. The courage to lament can have a profoundly positive influence with others who also must deal with life’s grief, loss, and pain. When this occurs, the experience results in mutual understanding, acceptance rather than rejection, community rather than isolation, the strength of shared struggle rather than the loneliness of despair. Furthermore, lamenting is a way of bringing up and out before Immanuel (God with us) what is inside. We discover in lament that candid, fierce dialogue with God is possible without shame, guilt, defensiveness, or fear of rejection. We learn that God understands and can handle our feelings.

Despite the universal reality of human hurt and suffering, few people in our day have knowledge of or practice lamenting. Even though seventy-two Psalms are several types of laments, this is not a common spiritual practice. Since all humans experience grief and pain, it would be invaluable to rediscover the art of lament.

Neglecting or minimizing upsets, disappoints, and the traumas of life is harmful. It undermines our mental, emotional, and spiritual health, and may block our healing. Lamentation offers a path toward freedom; a way of releasing the pain and accessing the power of hope.
Laments in the Bible have both the catharsis of releasing pain, but they turn to God with hope, with a sense of renewed faith. I offer two examples of biblical characters who lamented. There are many others.