“I cry out to you,” reads the lyrics of a new song. In that simple expression, you find a succinct lesson on lament—that statement almost says all you need to know.
The person cries—not just talks, but expresses deep emotion, such emotion that words have turned to cries, even groans, and have melted into tears.
The person cries to God. If they cry to God, we can conclude a few other things. Crying to God assumes this person has some sort of relationship with him. It also reveals a certain kind of courage—believing that God wants to hear and even welcomes their cries.
It’s not often people cry in public. We like to not be seen in our distress, or we apologize at times when the tears escape. It takes humility to be willing to cry to God, just like it takes humility to cry before anyone else.
Notice also, the person cries to God, not about God. Crying about what God has allowed into your life without crying to him would be complaining, not lament.
Lament is taking our pain honestly to God.
You might understand the word lament in everyday language to mean being really, really sad to the point of probably making noise of it—wailing, crying, or changing into mournful dress. We might restrict lament to certain cultures or customs.
Biblically speaking, lament is expressing negative emotions to God.
Can I do that? Is probably your first question. The resounding answer of the Bible is Yes! Yes, you can! But there’s a way to lament that honors God, and one that does not.
First, it honors God when we cry out to him. That means we have accepted his welcome to do so, which we find all throughout the Bible in places like Psalm 62:8, which says, “Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge” (NLT).
It also honors God when we direct our sadness, anger, and frustration at him, rather than about him. When we honestly express to him our deepest pains, we are believing he cares, can answer, and is involved in those painful areas of our lives, even when we don’t understand or even like what he is doing.
Lament means taking our troubles to the one who is ultimately in control of our lives. God is not afraid of our anger or grief, or lack of understanding. He can take it. In fact, for those who trust in Jesus, he delights to call himself our Father. Running to our Heavenly Father in our pain draws us close to him and builds our relationship with him.
C.S. Lewis wisely understood God’s heart from the Scriptures, reminding us that “God doesn’t want something from us. He simply wants us.”
When you are deeply disappointed, profoundly angry, on the verge of a meltdown, holding back tears, numb with grief, God doesn’t want you to pull it together, or to just grit your teeth and pursue more spiritual disciplines, or act stronger. He wants you to run into his arms and tell all.
He would rather you tell him honestly all the dark thoughts running through your mind than have you retreat into the darkness alone.
And he will have things to say to you. He wants you to come to him because he is the only one who can teach you wisdom in the secret heart (Psalm 51:6)—he can reach where no one else can.
When you come to him, he will bind up your wounds (Psalm 147:3), speak truth to you (John 14:25-26), and remind you of his power, his goodness, and help you to trust him again (Psalm 13:5-6), which will ultimately lead you to rejoice in his care for you.
Lament leads to trust. Trust leads to rejoicing. And so lament changes us.
He loves us, after all. He proved it, too. Jesus Christ wanted you to know the joy of being close to his Heavenly Father. He knew you wouldn’t ever be perfect. In fact, he knew all the reasons you deserve to remain at a distance from God—so in an act of sacrificial love, he died the death your sins deserve to bring you to God (1 Peter 3:18). Jesus absorbed all of God’s anger towards you on the cross, so you could know God’s love for you (Isaiah 54:9-10).
If you put your trust in Jesus, and you call on the name of the Lord, he will not turn you away. He has done all that needs to take place for you to draw near to him. Will you trust him?
Psalm 62:8 says, “trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him.” The way to trust God is to boldly pour out your heart to him. So whatever has filled your heart, go, friend, and pour it before the Lord and expect him to meet you there.