Recently a friend told me that he had read somewhere that what husbands hear as complaining from their wives is often actually lamenting.
That immediately resonated with me as being quite true. As I thought more about what lamenting is, the purposes and value of lamenting and what makes it different from complaining, I remembered an article I had read some time ago. When I went back to it, I discovered that all the thoughts I was thinking on lamenting were not my own original thoughts. They had obviously come from that article and had simmered around inside my mind and heart until they made so much sense I thought they were my own.
The article was written by Chuck DeGroat. I would recommend reading the whole article, but here is the paragraph that expresses the heart of what I’ve been discovering as I ponder the gift of lamenting:
Lament is ultimately hopeful. Seems paradoxical, doesn’t it? The person sitting before you is weeping and wailing about his pain, and it is supposed to produce hope? There, of course, is a fine line between complaining and lamenting, but too often we dismiss the baby with the bath water. Dan Allender says that one who laments often looks like a grumbler or complainer, but that biblical lament is nothing of the sort. Instead, lament contains in itself the possibility of extraordinary hope, restored desire, a changed heart. Lament is, at its core, a search for God. It is not a search for answers. It is not an invitation to fix an ailment. Rather, lament enters the agony with the recognition that it might not go away for days, months, even years. And yet, the lament carries with it the hope that God will eventually show. Dan Allender puts it this way: “Lament is a search – a declaration of desire that will neither rest with a pious refusal to ache, nor an arrogant self-reliance that is a hardened refusal to search.”
In future posts, I want to explore further the topic of lamenting. Some questions I am asking myself are:
What IS lamenting? Here I am, with all these opinions on the topic, and I don’t even have a “real” definition of it. Is it an emotion, something we feel? Or an action, something we do?
How does lamenting change the way we grieve?
Can lament happen in isolation, or is being heard and lamented with an essential part of the definition?
How does lamenting affect forgiveness?
How does lament fit with joy, hope and peace, when lamenting seems anything but joyful, hopeful and peaceful?
I’m also wondering what cultural factors play into lamenting–what are the values that make lamenting acceptable or something we run from as fast as we can?
I am also mentally compiling a list of people who have demonstrated lamenting in a way that makes me want to (1) receive the gift of lamenting for myself more often and (2) allow other people to lament, even when it makes me feel uncomfortable. I have found examples in Scripture, in the lives of people I know and in stories. One of the best modern day examples is a blogger whose writing I enjoy reading. Thinking about lament has helped me understand why some of his posts have really touched me so deeply.