Praying our Disappointments – Lament

Lament is talking back to God from out of our distress and intimate trust that God is willing to hear us at our worst yet stay with us through all things. While it might seem particularly appropriate for Lent, the woes of the world are not limited to any time of year.   

This honest, intimate, daring, trusting kind of conversation is an important aspect of how the “friends of God” in Scripture deal with their disappointments.  It’s not everything, there is more to it, but crying out to God in distress is the place to begin with our disappointments. These kinds of prayers and conversations honor and witness to the distress of both the innocent and the guilty.  They also indicate an intimacy (in the human – Divine relationship) of trust and concern that we all need when we are disappointed, grieving, angry, longing, or afraid.

The “friends of God” do not hold back from expressing clearly to God their distress over many kinds of disappointment:

Abraham       But Abram said, “Lord God, what can you possibly give me, since I still have no children?  [This is the 4th time of asking!] Genesis 15:2

Moses             The Lord was outraged, and Moses was upset. 11 Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? And why haven’t I found favor in your eyes, for you have placed the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give birth to them, that you would say to me, ‘Carry them at the breast, as a nurse carries an unweaned child,’ to the fertile land that you promised their ancestors? 13 Where am I to get meat for all these people? They are crying before me and saying, ‘Give us meat, so we can eat.’ 14 I can’t bear this people on my own. They’re too heavy for me. 15 If you’re going to treat me like this, please kill me. If I’ve found favor in your eyes, then don’t let me endure this wretched situation.”   Numbers 11: 10b – 15

Hanna            Hannah was very upset and couldn’t stop crying as she prayed to the Lord. Then she made this promise: “Lord of heavenly forces, just look at your servant’s pain and remember me! Don’t forget your servant! I Samuel 1:10 -11

Jonah             Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish:

“I called out to the Lord in my distress, and he answered me.

                        From the belly of the underworld I cried out for help;

                         you have heard my voice.  Jonah 2:1b -2

The Psalmist 17:6       I cry out to you because you answer me.

                                    So tilt your ears toward me now—

                                    listen to what I’m saying!

                        18:6      I cry out to you because you answer me.

                                     So tilt your ears toward me now—

                                     listen to what I’m saying!

 Jesus                          My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Matt. 27:46

If talking back to God is okay with God, as it seems to be in the examples above, so is talking back to each other and witnessing each other’s laments. As North American Christians we’ve picked up the idea that lament is the same as whining and is never ever okay!

Whining and lament are very different kinds of expression. Whiners are not interested in change, are unwilling to take the risks necessary in intimate relationships and have little interest in hearing any response to their protests beyond giving them what they want.

A lament is based upon a trusting mutual relationship in which vulnerability is weighed against disappointment. A lament doesn’t work as a lament apart from this intimate balance of need, risk, trust, and care. Lamenters are opened to new possibilities by this experience of sharing their disappointments with God and with each other.

Part of what we gain from lamenting our own disappointments, is insight into how other folks deal with theirs.  As we move through these times of transition, we are reminded that everyone deals with disappointments. Everyone. We are disappointed about very different things. But whatever our disappointments may be, we all need our distress to be heard, honored and responded to.

Another thing we notice about disappointments after a while… that no matter what happened and who may be at fault or who has been harmed, the powerful experience of having our disappointments being taken seriously does a LOT to set us upon a path that eventually leads to healing and reconciliation, especially when that involves changing our minds and hearts. (aka repentance)

We thank you for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone….   BCP 865

About kathrynrickert

Possibly from watching the movie Bambie at the age of 6, I have had a life-long awareness that saying ONLY nice things, does not make the world just or kind. Thus, my 2009 doctoral dissertation..."Talking Back to God" , is one of the main aspects of the work I do. Always interdisciplinary, seeking connections across borders that are usually marked with DO NOT ENTER, I seek to pay attention, pray, think, create,and imagine using biblical laments, Christian worship texts, and the ordinary stuff of everyday life.
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