Dialogs and Commentary

Can We Lament?

An appeal to a godly response long forgotten in the modern Christian church.

1 Sam 4:21 (NRS) She named the child Ichabod, meaning, "The glory has departed from Israel."

When the presence and power of God leave a people in a particular regard, the appropriate thing to do is lament. While we know that our Lord will not ultimately leave us or forsake us unless we deny Him, our sins and rebellion will deprive us of His glory, hope and power in day-to-day life. And at these points and for these particulars, lamentation is the only reasonable response if we have our spiritual eyes open.

Yet to do so in the modern church would surely get you labeled as a grumbler or complainer or a "negative person". Denial is the modern prescription for the absence of the presence and power of God in our midst. Rather than hit our knees and search our hearts, we turn up the hype volume to drown out any vestiges of Holy Spirit conviction that might linger. In this kind of environment, as you might imagine, honest lamenting will never be tolerated.

When we receive God's blessings, we have no problem "rejoicing with those who rejoice" (Rom 12:15). But weeping? You have got to be kidding.

Yet lamentation, unpopular as it is, is a fit response for those who know better and realize just how far they have fallen (Rev 2:5) from the glory of God. If God is not with us it is a great insult to Him and dangerous for us to pretend He is.

Can we, perish the thought, consider the option of real lamentation? I mean, after all, there is a whole book of the Bible named after this godly discipline!

Imagine the author of the book of Lamentations worrying that people will think he is a "negative person". Imagine him wringing his hands that people will accuse him of grumbling. Somehow, this is not easy to imagine. For the author was not aiming to please men, but rather God. God deals with truth, and delusion is a sin against the truth. So he spoke, like the other lamenters in scripture, with clarity concerning the situation. Can we give ourselves permission, by his example, to lament as well?

There is a difference between proper lamenting and improper grumbling; it lies in whether or not God is really with us or not. If He is, it is a grave sin to complain, even if all hell is breaking loose. If He is not in some regard, then we should lament, even if we are experiencing prosperity and every carnal comfort imaginable. Both lamenting and complaining are "negative", but if the Lord's power and presence has, in some measure, departed from us, then lamenting is merely acknowledging spiritual reality in passionate appeal to God in prayer, speech, and deeds.

I often hear prayers that God would "raise up leaders in the church," and "lead godly men to obedience," and such. If this happens, don't be surprised if instead of a pep-rally they fall on their faces and weep. This is the leadership that appears most needed in the present hour. We need men and women who will pierce through the deadness and phoniness and cry out, "Save us, O God! We miss and need you!" in honest longing for the presence of God in prayer meetings, in homes, and in church meetings. Will you be that leader? Dare you even consider it? You must know in advance that it will make a lot of fakers really mad.

John 15:20 (NIV) "Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also."

It would seem odd to have to point out that lamentation is permissible in the church. But due to the widespread popularity of "faking it" and the need to quash anyone who would break rank with popular pretense, unfortunately it is so. Nobody in this giddy age appears to need permission to rejoice, but most modern believers feel unsure of themselves if and when the need for weeping arises. But if/when we have fallen from His glory, we must lament. God's people have always done so in this instance. For He requires "truth in the inner parts".

James 4:7-10 (NRS) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Lam 2:11,13-15,17-19 (NIV) My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed... What can I say for you? With what can I compare you, O Daughter of Jerusalem?... Your wound is as deep as the sea. Who can heal you? The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were false and misleading. All who pass your way clap their hands at you; they scoff and shake their heads... The Lord has done what he planned; he has fulfilled his word, which he decreed long ago. He has overthrown you without pity, he has let the enemy gloat over you, he has exalted the horn of your foes. The hearts of the people cry out to the Lord... let your tears flow like a river day and night; give yourself no relief, your eyes no rest. Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him...

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