How is lament different than grief?

“So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy” – John 16:22

Steve and I have both individually experienced profound life-altering loss, and we are living out God’s promise that He will use our sorrows to comfort those who are suffering from their grief.

“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

2 Corinthians 1:2-4

When we serve a family, our hearts ache for them knowing that their grief journey is new.  We are mixed with sadness that their loss has brought us together, but we are also humbled that they have trusted us with their grief and their story. We know that this journey of grief is not the journey they chose to be on.  We are honored that God has brought you to us, and we hold your grief with the most tender respect.

A foot in two canoes

As I listen to the stories of loss, I can’t help but think about how difficult the journey is because you have your feet in two canoes.  One canoe is the world that doesn’t stop and the other canoe is your world that stopped the day you lost your loved one.   I have been thinking about how much balancing is required while you are grieving.  Balancing your feelings, your day to day activities of life, trying to engage in relationships with those who love you, adjusting to how your life has changed and finding a rhythm that feels survivable, your memories, the grief triggers, questions, and your faith journey – balancing your grief against your hope in God’s promises.  These are all “tensions” that are unavoidable and must be balanced while you are navigating the deep water of lamenting your losses. 

There’s nothing I can write or say that will lessen your pain, but the bible has much to say about lamenting and I have been pondering what that word means in God’s eyes.   To Lament is to deeply grieve when your heart is broken.  When you are lamenting, there are no words to express your pain.  Lamenting is when crying is not enough.  It’s more than your expression of grief. 

Lamentation is a form of prayer!

As a follower of Jesus, lamenting is a form of prayer.  We are promised in scripture that when we are overcome with grief and are too exhausted to pray or don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit will intervene on our behalf. 

(Romans 8:26-27)The Holy Spirit takes hold of us in our human frailty to empower us in our weakness. For example, at times we don’t even know how to pray, or know the best things to ask for. But the Holy Spirit rises up within us to super-intercede on our behalf, pleading to God with emotional sighs too deep for words. God, the searcher of the heart, knows fully our longings, yet He also understands the desires of the Spirit, because the Holy Spirit passionately pleads before God for us, His holy ones, in perfect harmony with God’s plan and our destiny.”

We are made strong in our weaknesses when we surrender them to Christ.

I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me – I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency.” (Philippians 4:13)

God is Real

God Loves You

God Listens to You

God Understands Your Sorrow

God Knows Your Heart

God Reigns

God Has a Plan

God’s Plan Wins

Arming yourself for battle

This journey of loss is not what you chose, but you do have choices concerning the thoughts in your mind.  You are at war, and when you are in the midst of battle, you must arm yourself with weapons that will give you the best chance to survive and ultimately thrive. During your lament, you have a choice to seek God’s help by expressing your anger, questions, complaints, and pain to Him.  He already knows what’s raging in your soul; He will not be offended or surprised by your honesty.  Your honesty with Him is an act of faith and He yearns for that from you.  Your lamenting to God communicates to Him that you are taking Him at His word, you are going to hope in His promises even though you question His faithfulness to you. There’s a good reason God filled the Bible with people lamenting, and placed a whole book in the Bible called Lamentations.  God will always be honest with you, and will always tell you the truth.  He knew you would need examples so you would know that it’s okay to lament to Him.  He wanted to show you how to turn to Him when your sorrow tempts you to turn away from Him.   

Psalm 102 A prayer when overwhelmed with trouble. “Lord, hear my prayer! Listen to my plea! Don’t turn away from me in this time of my distress. Bend down your ear and give me speedy answers, 3-4 for my days disappear like smoke. My health is broken, and my heart is sick; it is trampled like grass and is withered. My food is tasteless, and I have lost my appetite. I am reduced to skin and bones because of all my groaning and despair. I am like a vulture in a far-off wilderness or like an owl alone in the desert. I lie awake, lonely as a solitary sparrow on the roof.”

Psalm 40:13 “Please, Lord, rescue me! Quick! Come and help me!”

Psalm 130:1-2 “O Lord, from the depths of despair I cry for your help: “Hear me! Answer! Help me!”

Jesus understands your lamentation! 

One of the most important examples of lamentation is recorded in chapter fourteen of the Book of Mark.  The Apostle tells us that Jesus demonstrated His extreme lamentation during the night just prior to His arrest and crucifixion as He cried out to the Father,

“Abba, everything is possible for You. Take away this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will!”

Mark 14: 32-42Then they went to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples, “Sit down here while I pray.” 33 And He took with Him Peter and James and John and began to be struck with terror and amazement and deeply troubled and depressed.34 And He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sad (overwhelmed with grief) so that it almost kills Me! Remain here and keep awake and be watching.”35 And going a little farther, He fell on the ground and kept praying that if it were possible the fatal hour might pass from Him.36 And He was saying, “Abba, everything is possible for You. Take away this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”37 And He came back and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, Simon, “are you asleep? Have you not the strength to keep awake and watch [with Me for] one hour?”38 “Keep awake and watch and pray [constantly], that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”39 He went away again and prayed, saying the same words.40 And again He came back and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what answer to give Him.41 And He came back a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough of that! The hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinful men – men whose way or nature is to act in opposition to God.”42 “Get up, let us be going! See, My betrayer is at hand!”

These passages in Mark tell us that Jesus took His most trusted disciples with Him to pray before He was arrested, tortured, and crucified.  Jesus knew what was going to happen and He wanted His best friends with Him as His support.  What this passage tells us is that His friends failed Him not only once, but three times.  However, God did not fail Him.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day, and Jesus lives and reigns in heaven with God the Father. It is because of this that you can have hope and confidence that God has a plan and His plan is for your good, and His plan wins!

God keeps His promises and He has a beautiful plan that you can trust!

Revelation 21:1-6
Then in a vision I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The first heaven and earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, descending out of the heavenly realm from the presence of God, like a pleasing bride that had been prepared for her husband, adorned for her wedding. And I heard a thunderous voice from the throne, saying:

“Look! God’s tabernacle is with human beings.
    And from now on He will tabernacle with them as their God.
    Now God Himself will have His home with them—
    ‘God-with-them’ will be their God!
He will wipe away
every tear from their eyes
    and eliminate death entirely.
    No one will mourn or weep any longer.
    The pain of wounds will no longer exist,
    for the old order has ceased.”

And God-Enthroned spoke to me and said, “Consider this! I am making everything to be new and fresh. Write down at once all that I have told you, because each word is trustworthy and dependable.”

Then He said to me, “It has been accomplished! For I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give water to all who are thirsty. As My gracious gift, they will continuously drink from the fountain of living water. The conquering ones will inherit these gifts from Me. I will continue to be their God and they will continue being children for Me.”

God is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. In the beginning, he said, “Let there be light.” And for thousands of years, the sun has risen every day to make us thirsty for the Light behind the light. And in the end, God is going to satisfy that thirst with an experience of His own brilliant beauty beyond all description.

John Piper

May you find comfort in these words and confidence that you are not alone in your loss. May God bless you with His shalom when you cry out to Him during your deepest lament. May you develop a profound trust in Him confident that He never changes, He loves you more than you will ever know, He wants the best for you, and He will bring you through to His light.

Diann Anderson