I am indebted to Mark Vroegop who wrote, “To cry is human, but to lament is Christian.” I’m indebted for the liberating experiences delivered to me after reading his book, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy. These lessons helped me on my journey through grief.
Lament, Vroegop explains, has four vital parts; all are necessary. You turn to God, complain to God, ask of God, and trust in God. And now, in the rearview mirror of my deepest grief, I have some practical meat to put on these four bones.
Turn to God
“When brokenness becomes your life, lament helps you turn to God. It lifts your head and turns your tear-filled eyes toward the only hope…” Mark Vroegop, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy
Early in grief, I had family and friends speak into my life. My father offered counsel. My children encouraged me. Friends offered support.
Later, I learned the language of lament. As Vroegop says, “…lament helps you turn to God.” Earlier experiences, caution and counsel, helped me realize that the issue is we have many options to which we can turn. In loss, you can turn to a new relationship, pornography, or alcohol. Or numerous other destinations.
Or you can turn to God.
The first intentional and faith-filled step in lament is to turn to God.
Complain to God
“Complaint is central to lament. But Christians never complain just to complain. Instead, we bring our complaints to the Lord for the purpose of moving us toward him.” Mark Vroegop, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy
Honestly, complaining seemed very uncomfortable to me. It seemed disrespectful. However, I could not deny it was biblical. Vroegop takes you through The Psalms to prove his point. It’s biblical. David and other writers complained. Even Jesus lamented in Matthew 27:46, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And Jesus was quoting Psalm 22.
So, I complained. Uncomfortable, yes. But I sought to complain respectfully. Carefully.
And something beautiful happened. Jesus spoke to my heart and helped me see I was right to complain. This brokenness was not God’s design. However, brokenness is real. But he whispered to my heart that brokenness was worse than I could even fathom. Beyond my singular loss, the whole world is broken. And then it was as if he leaned in and delivered the news that brokenness is so bad that it cost him his life on the cross.
The second part of lament, complaint, liberated me from seeing only my perspective on loss.
Ask of God
“…lament stands in the gap between pain and promise.” Mark Vroegop, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy
At some point following my staggering loss, I realized I had lost my highest earthly treasure, my wife. And I had a distinct realization that I wanted only what God brought to me in my future. God led me to pray four overarching requests. I prayed in keeping with his Kingdom. I prayed asking for his will alone. I wanted his Kingdom to come and will to do be done in my life as it was fully accomplished in heaven. Unimpeded. Further, I began to pray for God to orchestrate my steps. I asked that he keep me walking in his ways—according to his statutes, instructions, and commandments. Finally, I had come to bask in God’s steadfast love. And so, I prayed that as he brought about his Kingdom, will, and ways that he would allow me to continue to enjoy his steadfast love.
The third aspect of lament, to ask, focused me to pray in agreement with God.
Trust in God
“…in the Bible lament is more than sorrow or talking about sadness. It is more than walking through the stages of grief. Lament is a prayer in pain that leads to trust.” Mark Vroegop, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy
After turning to God, complaining to God, and asking of God, it is appropriate to trust God. Further, lament is incomplete if you do not take the final step to declare your trust.
I have been encouraged on my journey through Psalm 89. One verse that represents so many other passages is Psalm 89:33 which states, “…I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness.” If your circumstances tell you he has removed his steadfast love from you, your circumstances are lying to you. He will not remove his steadfast love. Further, he will not be false to his faithfulness. He cannot deny himself.
The final component, trust, completes biblical lament.
Lament is born in brokenness. Biblical lament leads us to turn to God alone, risk the discipline of complaining to God, turn our complaint into a request and ask of God, and then rest in faith by trusting God.
“Lament is the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness.” Mark Vroegop, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy