This week in Bible study we sat at the feet of an ordinary women who was in deep grief. Her name is Hannah and her story is recorded in 1 Samuel 1. We watched Hannah go to the tabernacle to pray. We listened in to hear her wail in anguish because she is barren. Her prayer was a prayer of lament. A lament is an expression of grief for or about, to regret deeply, deplore, to grieve audible, wail, a song or poem expressing deep grief or mourning. It’s how Jesus prayed just before going to the cross. He was in such anguish that he sweat blood. (Luke 22:42-44) When we watch Hannah lament we see her weep in anguish- so much so her mouth moves but no words come out. It makes me think of how Elaine Scarry describes intense pain. She said intense pain is “language destroying; as the content of one’s world disintegrates, so the content of one’s language disintegrates.”
Ever been there?
Over half of the Palms (60%) are Psalms of lament. God understood we would grieve so he recorded a whole lot of Psalms for us to pray when we are in pain. The Palms of lament are structured to ask, “Where are you?” “Why have you allowed this?” We ask these questions don’t we? The structure allows for questions then it ends with a confession of faith. I learned to go to the Psalms of lament when in pain but I always struggled with the end. After all it only took 30 seconds to read through the whole Psalm. That’s just too fast. When I grieve it takes me longer than 30 seconds to get to a place where I can say a confession of faith. That’s how I used to feel when I read the Psalms of lament – that is until last year. I was working at a conference alongside an Australian singer Nathan Tasker, who shared a song of lament he wrote after his baby died. He said it took over a year to write the song. That’s when it hit me. The Psalter didn’t pen the Psalms of lament in 30 seconds – it took him a long time – it was over time. Why? Because grief is a process – a journey – it takes time.
We aren’t really good at the process are we? In fact we prefer it be over in 30 seconds. Three years ago trauma hit and I immediately went to my counselor’s office. I told him what happened, how I was coping (shock & grief) then stated (demanded), “Okay, I need to know how long this is going to take. Six weeks? Six months? Just tell me what to expect so I can tackle it.” He chuckled (imagine!) and said grief doesn’t work like that. It’s unpredictable and undetermined – a journey. I didn’t want a journey – I wanted a goal to accomplish. Get’er done and over with.
We suck at grieving.
Think about it. Did your parents teach you how to grieve? Or how to walk with those who grieve? Did your church teach you? I suspect not. We haven’t a clue how to grieve or walk with those who are grieving. The Jews did. They had the discipline of mourning. Lauren Winner, Professor at Duke Divinity and author of Mudhouse Sabbath, states, “Judaism understands mourning as a discipline, one in which the mourner is not only allowed, but expected, to be engaged. Rather than asking the mourner to “paper over” his grief, the Jewish community supports him in mourning.” (Learn more here)
How can we be a people who implement the discipline of mourning? What would it look like?
How can you teach your children the discipline of mourning?
How can you walk with a friend through it? How can you learn to journey it in yourself?
Would you take some time and share with us some thoughts on this? We need to teach each other how to grieve.
… To mourn with those who mourn.
Here’s another blog that may bring light to some of you who are in darkness.