Read through the Psalms carefully and you will notice a distinct difference between Biblical and American worship: lament. It takes up over a third of the book, yet it rarely makes an appearance on Sundays. Our corporate songs and prayers typically lack the pain-filled questions and present-tense pain that populate the ancient hymnal of God’s people.
What’s meant to be a regular part of our gatherings has virtually disappeared. We have lifted up the praise but sifted out the sorrow, leaving our worship habitually incomplete.
Our lamentlessness hinders us in many ways, but recent events showcase one detrimental ramification. As the church distances itself from songs of sorrow, we can easily detach ourselves from the suffering of others.
In particular, the faithful groans of communities of color echo throughout our history and continue to ring out today. They have not ceased lamenting over the ongoing injustice they endure. And their continual experiences of pain collide dramatically with our consistent emphasis on praise. Thankfully, many of us are finally seeing this devastating juxtaposition. As Soon-Chan Rah says, “We can no longer brush off the longsuffering of others. The church must recover the practice of lament to combat a triumphalistic narrative that hinders the authentic confrontation of justice in our world.”
Lament not only gives us language for our own languishing, but the trials of those around us.
It unites us with others, proclaiming that “if one member suffers, all suffer.”
It enables us to “weep with those who weep,” especially when the tears stream down faces that don’t look like ours.
It keeps the reality of things like racial oppression and injustice on the forefront of our minds.
It gives us the words to cry out to the Lord and protest the suffering we see.
It leads us to humbly acknowledge areas where we need to repent.
And it moves us to listen, learn, and take action.
Lament cannot only be an occasional response. It needs to be an ongoing rhythm so that our hearts are attuned to the suffering of our brothers and sisters.
“Remember those who are mistreated, since you are also in the body.” (Heb. 13:3) .