Recently, the daughter of one of the members of my small group passed away. This awful tragedy has spurred a lot of conversation in my household recently. Frequently, my husband and I have discussed and tried to reconcile in our minds this horrible thing that happened to such a beautiful sweet little girl with such a loving mother. So often I think we seek to find the deeper meaning or reason behind these events only to be left empty handed and more confused or angry than before. That is because God’s ways are not our ways…sometimes His plan is far and beyond what we could ever fathom or wrap our heads fully around and so we are left with just these simple truths:
1) We live in a broken, fallen world
2) God is good.
This paradox is something that we humans have had to wrestle with for, well… forever. As Christians we know the goodness and mercy and grace of God well, but we also know the sting of death and the hurt of loss. It is important for us as the church to share in these moments with our people.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
For a large, multi-campus church like CCCC, our greatest resource for living in obedience to that Scripture is the practice of small group. Our small groups are our first responders to tragedy and hurt for our people, and rightfully so. We need a core group of people to do life with that can share in the triumphs and failures of this life with us. But I’ve also found myself wondering what that would look like on a corporate level…How could we respond to that pain in song, in prayer, or in any other part of our usual liturgy?
Recently I read an interesting article by Dan Loewen about how his church actually programmed an entire service based on the book of Lamentations. Here’s what he had to say about lament:
“There aren’t a lot of answers in Lamentations. Just honest feelings of grief, sadness, doubt, confusion, anger, frustration, and questioning.”
Many of the songs we sing are celebratory: anthems of praise and joy that speak to the immensity of God’s grace, faithfulness and ability. I think that is great, because He is so utterly worthy of our constant praise and adoration because He is GOOD. But I wonder, too, if these songs can be a little bit hard to swallow when, for instance, you have just lost a child, lost a parent, gone through a divorce, or any of the other countless tragedies we encounter throughout our lives. It’s normal, honestly, not to want to “wallow” in the pains of this world. We are literally programmed to avoid pain. For instance, once we’ve burned ourselves on a hot stove as children- we aren’t just gearing up to touch something hot again! But I love how Dan put it in his article:
“ Lament is about creating space for our pain to breathe. We acknowledge it, we are honest about it, and we come before God with our feelings and frustrations. There is something strange in the way that we get a sense of healing by just being honest about our suffering even if the situation doesn’t change.”
When I have been faced with these trying times, I could still stand and sing “God is good!” and know in my heart that it is true and that He loves me; but sometimes I also wanted to sing “Where are You?” and “When are You coming back for us?”. We all have longed for the moment when we come face to face with our Savior, but nothing makes that longing more glaringly clear than living through the sufferings of this world.
As a songwriting exercise I decided to try my hand at writing a “lament” song. Here are the lyrics I came up with:
have mercy, God
for this woeful and worn broken heart
for I am more than undone, breathe life into my lungs
in this wasteland I will wait
I will wait, Oh
greater troubles, Lord
have You spoken away, (I know)
for I have seen it before, oh, come a take this from me, Lord
and restore this weary soul,
my weary soul, Oh
oh be near me, if just for a while
oh come carry me through this wretched mile
oh remind me that You are here
and Your love for me is greater than my fear
You are greater than my fear, Lord
By Courtney Ricketts