Outside of Good Friday and funerals services, I don't think I have ever experienced an opportunity like this. We were working off the observation that American culture does not do a good job of helping people to express grief and sorrow, and that American Christianity doesn't do much better. We tend to have a "get over it" mentality, or we think that if we grieve over something too long then it must mean we are not very spiritual. Our culture tends to be inward, so many people struggle deeply with hurt and bitterness because they have never learned to grieve over their loss. Instead we suck it up or bury it. Eventually this leads to coldness, bitterness, loss of intimacy with God & others, and even a loss of feeling.
Instead, we need to process our losses. Scripture affirms this: David laments deeply, openly, verbally over the death of people in his life. He writes songs about them. He mourns in community. Check out 2 Samuel 1:17-27, 3:31-39; 12:15-23, along with numerous Psalms (3, 6, 13, 32, etc.). Even Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died (John 11:35).
But death isn't the only thing we need to lament over. As I mentioned above, there are many other things that give cause for grieving. We are broken people living in a fallen world. Relationships fail. Life doesn't turn out the way we want. People disappoint us. Changes shake us. We cannot ignore how much life affects us without serious consequences. We can't just suck it up all the time. Sometimes we need to lament this brokenness, this loss. Of course, we don't stay grieving forever, but we must be willing to walk through a process of grieving and this takes time.
Looking at how David handled his sorrow, we first see that he embraced it. Then, he processed it in three realms:
- In Himself - personally through prayer, confession, crying, writing, remembering, fasting.
- In Community - in relationship with others through song and public mourning.
- In God - ultimately he looked to and hoped in his sovereign and loving God.
For more, here is the full message Embracing Lament.
And here is a Puritan Prayer that we adapted and used during the service (from The Valley of Vision: Confession & Petition):
We have sinned times without number, and been guilty of pride and unbelief, of failure to find our mind in your word, of neglect to seek you in our daily life. We often fail to grieve over our sin and brokenness. We have acted as if all is well.
Help us to see the terribleness of our sin and the futility of our attempts to live life without you. Let the loss of relationship with You burn in our souls and draw us back to your side. Let not the passions of the flesh nor lusting of the mind bring our spirit into subjection, but rule over us in liberty and power.
Grant us a godly sorrow, a humble heart, a repentant spirit. Let us not refuse grief, but use it to draw us back into communion with You.
Our transgressions and short-comings present us with a list of accusations,but we bless You that they will not stand against us, for all have been laid on Christ; Go on to subdue our corruptions, and grant us grace to overcome them.
We thank you for your wisdom and your love, for all the acts of discipline to which we are subject, for sometimes putting us into the furnace to refine our gold and remove our dross. Only use these things to make us more like You.
Father, hear us as we grieve and remove our guilt. Fill our longings. Give us rest in You.