The interesting thing about lament in the Psalms is that nearly all of them move through the emotions of grief and pain yet ultimately conclude with a sort of doxology; a way of offering praise to God.
Recently I spent time at a weekend training where we were given an “exercise on lament.” That’s kind of a strange activity isn’t it—to practice the process of lament? I don’t know about you, but it seems that in our culture we don’t always have the opportunity, or permission even, to properly process grief through the act of lament. We are told to guard our emotions, stifle tears, and in some ways not process our feelings. That’s the opposite of what we see in the scriptures.
If you’ve ever spent any length of time reading the Psalms, they are filled with lament, both individual and communal songs of grief or pain. Most times we tend toward Psalms which are upbeat and full of praise or thanks, but there are just as many (or more) that focus on lament, grief, and crying out to God. If you’ve ever wanted to know how to lament just turn to the Psalms.
Anyway, I was given an opportunity to spend about 45 minutes contemplating something in my life which I might not have fully lamented to that point. Something sprang to mind immediately so I grabbed my journal and headed outside the house to the lovely backyard on a warm summer day. There, in the corner of the yard, I saw a trampoline.
Why not lament on a trampoline?
I crawled up onto the warm, black trampoline surface and sprawled out on my stomach, journal before me, and began to contemplate a life situation which I had processed only partially and needed some good lament. I journaled and thought and journaled some more. I wrote my confession of grief and pain, lamented an area of brokenness in my life, and read through several Psalms of lament to better express myself when words seemed to be missing.
The interesting thing about lament in the Psalms is that nearly all of them move through the emotions of grief and pain yet ultimately conclude with a sort of doxology; a way of offering praise to God. Even in the dark moments of the Psalm writers’ life, and when enemies were closing in or chaos surrounded them, those songs of lament inevitably turned to the goodness of God in the midst of the bad. Even in lament there can be found a glimmer of hope and an opportunity to praise.
As my time with this lament exercise came toward a close, my words seemed to be used up. I had journaled and thought and journaled some more. I had written my confession of grief and pain, and in many ways I had given over that area of brokenness to God. It was still broken, but I had fully lamented.
Still lying on my stomach in the middle of the trampoline, I looked at the many springs surrounding the outside. It occurred to me that even if a couple of those springs were broken the rest of the springs would still provide the support and “bounce” needed to enjoy the trampoline. Even if one area of my life included some brokenness, the rest of my circle was still healthy and supportive. In the midst of lament there was still space for doxology.
With my last five minutes of the exercise, I got up and jumped on the trampoline. Why not lament on a trampoline? In that time I offered a doxology of praise to God who was, is, and will continue to be with me in the midst of the brokenness and darkness and lament.
(If you have been unable to lament, consider the Psalms as a tool for moving forward through grief toward doxology. Psalm 3, 4, 5, 7, 9-10, 13, 14, 17, 22, 25-28 are just some of the many many Psalms to read. Sitting with a Spiritual Director can also help you work through the process of lament. I’d be honored to walk with you in that process.)
Husband, father, pastor, and Steelers fan. Lover of coffee, dogs, and bourbon.