“God sings a louder song than suffering ever could, a song of resurrection, renewal , restoration, and re-creation.”- Aubrey Sampson
“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”- Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)
“Just as joy and sorrow in alternation are part of human existence, so praise and lamentation are part of [our] relationship with God.”- Claus Westermann
While teaching third and fourth grade at Northwest Lutheran in Milwaukee, I established a yearly tradition with my students. With each new class, I shared special artifacts from my childhood. Most noteworthy, several items dated back to my own time in those grades. They included: a short play I composed for my hand puppets, my Peewee League shirt (Phillies – ‘Murphy Rents Most Anything’), and my Cub Scout shirt. And one year a third grade boy actually put on the shirt. It fit!
Through this sharing, I hope to take an abstract concept – I existed as a child – and make it concrete. In a very real sense, this informed my approach to teaching, deepening their level of confidence and trust.
Writing in The Louder Song: Listening for Hope in the Midst of Lament, Aubrey Sampson asserts that true lament only happens within the confines of a safe and loving covenantal relationship. Therefore, Aubrey explains:
“Even if we turn our prayers against [God], even if we angrily blame him, even if we run and scream wildly, God remains near, patiently inviting us deeper into his presence. When Christians lament, we do so to a God who lets us. Our cries — even our cries of doubt and despair — fall on his loving, listening ears.”
However, Aubrey counsels, we only truly know what it means to praise God on the other side of suffering if we acknowldge our pain to God. Thus, in our honest crying out to God about our pain, our worship of God grows more authentic. Since lament, above all, consists of a dialogue between us and God, Aubrey describes four especially meaningful expression of lament.
1. The Shalom Lament. All biblical lamenters responded when they sensed God’s absence. The lamented the disappearance of God’s shalom. Yet, God brings stars into our dark night, water into our drought, and friends and family into our pain. Declare to God the absence of His shalom. Remind Him that He’s promised wholeness and newness.
2. The Exodus Lament. In Egypt, God heart the groaning of the Israelites. Their laments stirred His heart. Intimately intertwined with their suffering, God moved with compassion to rescue them. And today, God sings a louder song than our suffering.
3. The Protest Lament. Of course, lament expresses grief for our own pain. But, it also involves a communal and public cry for justice. Hence, protest laments cry out to the only Judge capable of making a difference. Also, these laments demand a just ruling. Because they take someone’s suffering seriously.
4. The Repentant Lament. Repentant laments express remorse for sin and a desire to return to the Lord. In 1663, Thomas Watson wrote this in his essay, A Divine Cordial: “Wicked men make merry with sin . . . . but the godly are weeping doves.”
Finally, as God sings a louder song, Aubrey exhorts, run wildly to Him, clutching your unedited, honest laments. For God’s moving toward you, Aubrey rejoices, with love and rescue in His arms!