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The Worship of Lament

Cindy invited me to go with her to the Covenant Women's Retreat in Yelm in October. I went reluctantly, knowing it would be good to be immersed in a weekend of worship and the Word, but not looking forward to being around so many women who perhaps were not touched by the depth of pain I'd experienced recently. I sat sullenly through the first worship song, not wanting to participate because the words did not resonate with my heart.

The next day brought a softening in my heart and the Lord started to open doors of healing and hope. I met a woman of God with a heart of compassion and wisdom, and a passion to serve the body of Christ. As we talked, my story slowly unfolded, and her eyes filled with tender concern. She told me about the worship of lament, and about how lament is used in the Bible repeatedly to deal with difficult things and build intimacy with God.

By the end of the weekend, this amazing woman, Debbie Taylor, had encountered enough hurting hearts that she felt convinced to do something. Out of this compassion and love sprung a small group of women from around the country wanting to bring their pain before the Lord in the worship of lament and support each other through our grief. Our losses are different but our desire for the presence of God and worship of our Savior is a common thread that binds us.

Here's what I’m learning about lament. It’s a form of worship where we bring our pain and sorrow before God. Confidence in God's trustworthiness is the destination of all laments. Laments have four basic elements.

· turning to God,

· pouring our hearts out - complaining to him,

· asking for what we need, and

· trusting Him by recounting His goodness to us in the past.

As a society, we are uncomfortable with grief. We want to rush through the sadness. In so doing, we miss out on the intimacy that happens in our sadness, our desert place. God kept the Israelites in the wilderness 40 years when they could have passed through in a few weeks. (See map below.)

God did that because he wanted to build intimacy with them in the desert through their dependence on His divine provision and his loving-kindness. In the same way, he wants to build intimacy with us in our emotional desert place, the place where we feel alone and abandoned by God and others. Our lament is our battle cry to find God. In the desert, we find God’s worth. We learn to offer all our emotions to him. Out of that comes true worth-ship or worship.

The Bible can guide us in our laments. Check out these psalms: 3, 10, 17, 31, 42, 43, 60, 79, 80, 94, and 102. And here’s a beautiful psalm of David’s:

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. Psalm 13

I’m learning to write my own laments based on this pattern. Here’s a way to write your own lament.

1. Write an account of your misery or a description of your grief.

2. Formulate your plea for help or a specific petition. What do you want God to do?

3. Affirm your trust in God or your expression of confidence in Him. It can be helpful to reflect on God’s actions in the past and His faithfulness to you.

4. Write a statement of praise and hope. This is your own response to God in the midst of suffering.

If we truly want to encounter God and grow in our relationship with him, then we need to embrace our grief as more than an uncomfortable intruder, rather as a welcome companion in our daily walk with God. Grief draws us to God in ways that cannot be accomplished through any other means. It is in our grief that we encounter God in the richest way possible.

The trip from Cairo, Egypt to Jerusalem, Israel takes 7 days by foot, or 164 hours of walking. God kept the Israelites in the desert 40 years so that they could experience His divine provision and his loving-kindness.

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