The Art of Lament

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When was the last time you chose to lament?

It isn’t really something that we do in our culture1, is it?

As a society we’ve become very good at distracting ourselves. We all have our poison. Mine’s Netflix binges. Yours might be alcohol, or exercise, or sport, or academia, or pretty much anything other than having to actually stop and deal with something.

Doesn’t that sound familiar?

Jesus talked about lament. He said:

“Rich2 are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Hang on a minute – there’s a richness to be found in mourning? When was the last time anyone was grieving and thought to themselves, ‘wait, this is really enriching my life’? The crucial part of the idea Jesus is trying to get across is the last bit.

They will be comforted.

Often we distract ourselves from our grief – wether it’s over a break-up, a loss of someone close to us, failure to achieve something, or something else – we find ways not to deal with that grief. I’ve found that the result of doing this for years and years is that the grief is still there, buried deep down, just waiting to cause an argument with my fiancée or my mum or one of my friends. My grief usually ends up hurting those close to me.

Why do we do this? Perhaps we’re afraid that we’ll never find comfort.

The Good News

Jesus is saying that we don’t have to live like this. He says that we will be comforted.

If we take the time to engage with our grief, then we often find that rather than it making things worse, we start to feel better. That’s why we have funerals. It’s why we revisit the graves of loved ones. It’s why we sometimes feel compelled to go “back there” to that place when we rationally think we shouldn’t. It’s why we write break-up songs.

Taking time to mourn, to lament, whatever it is for, gives us space to work through our grief. It allows us to move towards acceptance, and to move on with our lives. There’s a richness in not being held back by our grief.

Living It

  • The next time you catch yourself binge-watching, binge-drinking or whatever it is you do to escape from your grief, go and talk to someone instead. Maybe a close friend, maybe a counsellor.
  • If you don’t feel you can talk about it, write a journal. Look over your thoughts from before each time the grief comes up, and notice yourself moving forward.
  • Do you know someone who is struggling? offer to give them space with mourn – to lament with them about their grief.
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Ben is one of the founders and editors of New Roots. When he isn't managing the web site, he can usually be found working on his web design agency or down the pub discussing theology.

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