What is Lament?

by | Sep 2, 2021

What do you think of when you hear the word lament?

At first, I think of a sad song or an elaborate poem in remembrance of a lost loved one. While this is one of the definitions of lament, lament is a unique word with a larger depth of meaning.

For starters, it’s both a noun and a verb. According to Oxford Dictionaries, lament is defined as an expression of sorrow or grief, such as song or poem, but is also used as a verb “to have or express very sad feelings about somebody or something.”

In this article, we are going to focus on the verb, or act of lamenting, specifically towards God.  We will explore what the Bible says about lament, take in some examples from scripture and provide a few healthy ways to practice lament.

What does the Bible tell us about Lament?

In our lives, we can experience great pain. Often this pain can cause a stirring of emotions and doubt which can lead us to question God Himself. You may ask yourself, why was I born to suffer? Why me God? Why have you forsaken me? Questions like these can also be found in the Bible and are illustrations of how we lament to God.

Questions of this type might make some of us uncomfortable, myself included. To address the Lord in such a fashion may seem very disrespectful and go against what we’ve been taught in regard to questioning the Almighty. Perhaps some might even believe that we should bury those thoughts and feelings deep down inside or feel shame for having them in the first place.

While we should not dwell in disbelief and negative feelings towards God, scripture offers that He understands our doubt and welcomes our laments of pain. These emotions and questions come from a real part of our souls. To deny them can potentially cause spiritual harm and will hinder our relationship with God.

Furthermore, Pastor Laura Gilbertson offers that to be in genuine relationship with God, we will have to wrestle with Him sometimes. An authentic relationship comes with real honesty, in the good times and in the bad. God longs to be in a genuine, authentic relationship with us. Scripture affirms that God will stay faithful to us even when we question Him and He will remain with us always.

Examples of Lament in the Bible

The Bible provides a number of specific examples of people lamenting to God. David lamented to God in Psalm 22. On the cross, Jesus asked “Father why have you forsaken me?” Perhaps the most descriptive example of lament is found in the book of Job.  In Job 3:11, Job asks “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb?” In Job 7:20, he asks “Why have you made me your target? Have I become a burden to you?”

All of these examples show us that questions and doubts are a natural part of faith. That we are allowed to cry out to the Lord and ask Him the burning questions we have and share our deepest sorrows with Him.

These assurances are liberating. They open up the door for us to be honest with God about our pain. What an amazing gift.

This downloadable bookmark is a Bible reading plan that will take you through the book of Job and give you a better understanding of God’s presence and love in hard times.

How to Lament in Healthy & Positive Ways

Lament can be done in positive ways and gives us an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and God.

Through lament, we can identify the real source of our frustrations and pain. Is it God we are really mad at, or is it people in our lives? Ourselves… maybe something else?

Lament also offers a chance to open up and let it all out. You may feel like you don’t have anyone to turn to, and no options forward, but God is always there. Cast your burdens onto Him and He will receive them with grace and love.

Be intentional and bring lament into your life more often. Prayer is one way to do this. We have created a tool to help you dive further into the idea of lament and to practice lament in a healthy way in your life. It will help organize some of your thoughts into a prayer of lament and give you a structure to practice with, however you may choose. View and download the lament tool and prayer guide here. 

It’s Ok to Question God

Let’s say that again.  It’s ok to question God. Scripture affirms that questions and doubts are a natural part of faith. That they can even be useful and allow us to grow in deeper relationship with the Lord.

Pastor Laura reminds us that “faith is not the opposite of questioning God; faith is the act of persevering through doubts.”

So, when you feel that doubt and desolation start to creep in, remember it’s ok to feel frustrated and alone. It’s ok to cry out and offer up your hurt and confusion to God. It’s ok to blow off a little steam. Keep pushing through the uncertainty and see it as an opportunity to grow and strengthen your faith.

Job’s story in the Bible concludes with this beautiful restoration in his life of all that he had lost and more. Because of his unwavering faith, the Lord blesses Job more abundantly in the latter part of his life than the former part. He lived many years in comfort surrounded by the people he loved. This shows us that God does not leave us in our laments and is always there to bring His blessings upon us. These blessings may come in many different forms, perhaps like the examples illustrated in the book of Job, or even simple comfort and relief from your daily struggles. God always stays faithful to us, and we can trust in Him knowing our faith in Him counts and is not wasted.

Click here to see the full message from Pastor Laura Gilbertson that elaborates on these concepts of lament and how to practice lament in your life. 

More Videos on Lament:
  • Pastor Zac Bush also taught on the subject of lament in a message focused on how to navigate personal pain and suffering. In this message, Zac features another prayer of lament that we can use as a guide in our practice.
  • Pastor Joel K. Johnson gives more insight to the conclusion of Job’s story and the beautiful restoration that occurred in his life. He offers some great takeaways and covers Job 42:10-16 in more detail in his message here.

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