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The Gift of Lament

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What is some evidence of God’s faithfulness in your life? 

We think of the blessings of God when we look around at all that He has done for us. We think of the verses from Lamentations 3: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 

They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” 

Perhaps you know of someone who has decided that God is not faithful because of all the evil that is currently happening in our world. But consider the context of Lamentations 3. As Jeremiah was writing, Jerusalem was in flames. The people of Judah were in exile. His land was in ruins, and he was crushed in body and spirit. Take in these words: 

I have seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath. 
He has made me walk in darkness rather than light; 
He has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long. 

He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones. 
He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. 
He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. 
Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. 
He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows. 

I have been deprived of peace; so I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.” 

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.* 

This is the context of these wonderful verses that we use so often for encouragement and worship! Is it significant that the verses come in the middle of a book about destruction, exile, sorrow, pain, hopelessness? Did Jeremiah’s honest dissection of his hopeless circumstances lead to the recognition that God alone was his hope? Is it possible that it’s only because of the misery that Jeremiah was able to see the faithfulness of God in vivid color? 

In the senior seminar for communication disorders students, we study the language of lament through a discussion of the book Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy. In this book, author Mark Vroegop presents a four-part outline for lament, showing examples from the scriptures: 

Turn to God 

When we find ourselves with pain, confusion, exhaustion, disappointment, it seems we have three choices: to turn away from God in anger, to deny our pain and put on a happy face, or to express our negative feelings to Him. Lament requires us to turn to God. It acknowledges that He knows our sorrows, but it invites us to talk to Him about it all. It is a way to entrust our situation to Him in faith. 

State your Complaint 

In this step, we honestly tell God what the problem is. Some may have issue with the word “complaint,” but listen to the words of Psalm 142:2: “I pour out my complaint before Him; before Him I tell my trouble.”  While it may feel wrong to complain to God, it actually expresses that we trust Him with our circumstances. The psalmists complain that they’re being pursued by evil men, that they have physical ailments, that God seems to be ignoring their pain, or taking too long. And remember those complaints of Jeremiah! Their words give us a script for expressing our own complaints to God. 

Ask Boldly  

We can be specific in our requests for God to act in our circumstances. The psalmists make some very bold requests: “Destroy the wicked!”, “Help us, O God; deliver us and forgive our sins”, “Remember me, O Lord . . .  come to my aid”, “Remember Your covenant, defend Your cause.” And listen to the bold prayer of Psalm 74: “Take Your hand from the folds of Your garment and destroy them!” It is amazing to know that there is a God-inspired script to implore the Lord to act, to ask Him for Red Sea miracles, or remind Him of His promises (though perhaps we are the ones who need reminding). We can be honest in what we want the Lord to do in our circumstances. 

State your Trust 

This is the turning point in every lament. This step in lament anchors our soul not in our circumstances, but in God’s character. Sometimes in the Psalms it is simply “I trust You, Lord,” almost as if the author isn’t sure he believes it, but he writes it in faith. When we state our trust, we reaffirm our confidence in God, that He will act in accordance with His character, His righteousness, His justice. Lamentations 3:21-24 is Jeremiah’s statement of trust, written shortly after he declares his hopeless situation. 

Through the study and practice of lament, our students have learned to trust God in the midst of hard things. Lament does not fix our circumstances, but it is the minor key song that addresses the ache of our hearts before the only One who can heal our pain and bring hope to our hardship. And like Jeremiah discovered, lament anchors our soul in God’s faithfulness! 

Finally, in Psalm 56 David writes, “Record my lament; list my tears on Your scroll — are they not in your record?” Our tears will not be in vain! He hears our lament. And in the waiting, we are filled with hope! 



-Susan Layton '88

Associate Professor of Communication Disorders

Department Chair of Communication



* Lam. 1-5, 7-8, 12, 17a,

Opinions expressed in the Geneva Blog are those of its contributors and do not necessarily represent the opinions or official position of the College. The Geneva Blog is a place for faculty and contributing writers to express points of view, academic insights, and contribute to national conversations to spark thought, conversation, and the pursuit of truth, in line with our philosophy as a Christian, liberal arts institution.

Feb 15, 2024

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