“A voice is heard in Ramah [and in Brunswick and in Charlottesville], lamentation and bitter weeping. Mothers weep for their children; they refuse to be comforted for their children, because they are no more.” (Jer. 31:15)

“Our only hope is to march ourselves to the throne of God and in loud lament cry out the pain that lives in our souls.”  - Ann Weems

Death is always a tragedy. Murder is always a tragedy. Yet there is a particularly deep and old pain that is felt when unarmed black men are killed in the name of justice in this country. It has happened too often and for too long. The recent murder of Ahmaud Arbery has brought back into the spotlight the painful and evil reality of racism and the suffering that many of our brothers and sisters of color live with daily.

As we begin to reflect on this pain and this evil, for many it is not always easy to know how to respond. But for followers of Jesus, His life and teachings about His Kingdom and what it means to be in His Kingdom give us a few clear paths:

  • First, we as the people of God, are called to name injustice when we see it and to do everything in our power to put an end to it.
  • Secondly, we as the people of God, are called to enter into the pain of others, seeking to understand the pain of our brothers and sisters of color. To listen as we are able. To do everything in our power to understand the history that has shaped that pain. 
  • Finally, we are called to lament. While there will necessarily be a call to a variety of actions and responses to the injustice, the racism, the hatred, and the violence, our Christian tradition offers us the prayer of lament. This prayer gives us a way of being with God and with each other during times of deep and incomprehensible loss.

And so, let us stop, at least for a moment, and lament together. Let us stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of color in the hope of unity who continue to experience unfathomable loss. Let us stand in solidarity with Ahmaud Arbery’s family, especially with his mother, Wanda. Let us mourn with those who mourn. Let us cry out to God together for the peace and justice that seems to be so far off.

Learning to Lament

As we continue further up and in to this unprecidended and disoreinting space, God has not left us to our own. In this journey from life to resurrection, as we dip down into the valley of death He has given us as a means of grace in the prayers of lament. Below are a few resources to learn mor about what Paul Miller describes as a prayer that “puts us in an openly dependent position, where our brokenness reflects the brokenness of the world. It’s pure authenticity." Prayers of laments are refusals to settle for the way things are. They are acts of relentless hope that believes no situation falls outside God's capacity for transformation. No situation falls outside of God's responsibility.

Articles
Books

Writing Your Own Lament
by Elliot Grudem | Leaders Collective

The Psalmists typically follow a basic pattern when they write their laments.

  1. Direct Address | Address God (usually Yahweh) directly, expressing dependence on him. You have nowhere else to turn; to turn anywhere else is blasphemous idolatry.
  2. Lament / Cry for Help | Express your specific compliant to God.
  3. Confession of Sin / Assertion of Innocence | Sometimes you suffer because of something you’ve done. Other times you suffer because of something done to you. And other times it's a combination of both. Confessing your sin is a sign of humility; taking responsibility for another’s sin is refusal to admit hurt and can be a sign of arrogance.
  4. Imprecation | Imprecation leaves your desires for justice, vengeance, and vindication with God, asking him to act. This side of the cross, imprecation should include a longing for repentance, meaning the punishment for the sin falls fully on the shoulders of Christ. It can also include a longing for those in authority (often the government) to execute justice.
  5. Confidence in God’s Response | The expression of confidence in God often starts with, “But you...” This is a theologically full statement, often including applicable attributes of God.
  6. Praise | Most laments end with a statement of praise to God.

Take 30 minutes to write out your own lament following the above pattern.
Consider reading through different Psalms of Lament for ideas and even for words to include in your own.