Headship: A Friend in Lament
Matthew 27:45-46—Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
A healthy church must learn how to lament well together, and no one understands lament like Jesus.
At the cross it was as though all of creation was identifying with the Creator. Three days of darkness occurred in Egypt before Passover (Exodus 10:21-23), and three hours of darkness covered the land before the Lamb of God died for the sins of the world.
Because we live in a sin-cursed world, very often a part of our church body will be called into painful moments, and we need to follow our Lead Pastor, Jesus, into His perfect ability to weep with those who weep. He knows just how to stop and look with undivided attention, listen to every heart, touch every need, and cry out with those who seem to have no answer at the moment.
In his very excellent book, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament, Mark Vroegop defined lament as a “prayer in pain that leads to trust.”
He says, “Lament is how we live between the poles of a hard life and trusting in God’s sovereignty. Christianity suffers when lament is missing. . . . to pray in pain, even with its messy struggle and tough questions, is an act of faith where we open up our hearts to God.”
Sadly, under my leadership, the counsel for difficult times has often fallen under two categories: either “Be still and know that I am God” or “Victory in Jesus.” I am learning (but have not taught or modeled well) the grace of lament. Vroegop says, “To cry is human but to lament is Christian.” He calls it—worship in the minor key.
There is one who models lament perfectly. Whether He was seeing the multitudes, overlooking the city of Jerusalem, or dying on the cross, He knew how to process His perfect life of obedience through times of lament.
When we operate under His active headship, He can infuse an entire congregation with His Holy Spirit who knows how to grieve perfectly.
Sometimes trials are not overcome quickly. A process is often needed in order to allow individuals to steward their pain yet grow in trust and in faith. Meeting with Jesus obviously present and actively in charge lays the foundation and establishes the true spirit of lament on behalf of those who are in the Refiner’s fire. How good it is to be surrounded by a body of believers who by the power and words of Jesus cry and believe with us. There is one, and one only, to whom God listens, and always listens. It is Jesus. Standing at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus prayed, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me” (John 11:41-42).
That same One authored the Psalms and sang the Psalms of which one third are songs of lament.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it well: “In Jesus’ mouth the human word becomes God’s Word. When we pray along with the prayer of Christ, God’s Word becomes again a human word. Thus, all prayers of the Bible are such prayers which we pray together with Jesus Christ, prayers in which Christ includes us, and through which Christ brings us before the face of God. Otherwise there are no true prayers, for only in and with Jesus Christ can we truly pray” (Teaching Psalms, Vol. 1 by Christopher Ash).
Praying together in Jesus’s Name (John 14:14) is often applied to something we want to accomplish or acquire but seldom is our authority in prayer focused on the process of lament during a time of pain with others.
Through an understanding of the heart and ability of our Lead Pastor Jesus and guided by the content in the psalms of lament, we can minister with power to those in our church as they are being transformed into the image of Christ through trials.
No one understands like Jesus. No one ever cared for us like Jesus. And no one every prays for us like Jesus (John 17, Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:14-15; 7:25).
From Belief to Behavior
Review the priesthood of Jesus.
Review the Psalms of Lament.
Rehearse the process of lament together (Vroegop).
Keep turning to prayer.
Bring your complaints.
Choose to trust.