From sadness to lament

3 05 2017

I am not an expert on this topic, but an explorer of my own experience and emotions. Maybe you, my reader friend, can help me out.

lament is sadness shared

Is there a difference between sadness and lament?  I am using “sadness” in the sense of the raw emotion which results from loss or other event which causes my inner being to be weighed down, disheartened, or despairing.

During this time period my adult children and I have been feeling sad about the loss of my wife to cancer. So there is a connection between sadness and grief; perhaps grief if a specific expression of sadness, I don’t know.

Then there is the idea of “lament,” which is less often used but worth reconsidering. I am a Christian so I gravitate toward the Bible’s frequent use of lament. There are many lament psalms, and an entire book in the Bible called “Lamentations.”

In my attempt to deal with our sadness (and grief), I am thinking through ways in which lament is possibly different that sadness. (I am thinking as a non-professional.) Here are some.

quote lament

Characteristics which I hope are true of lament:

  • While sadness is a raw emotion that can settle in my heart and rot, lament is sadness honestly felt and expressed to others and to God.
  • Lament is felt and expressed knowingly in God’s presence, for His “ears”. therefore the sadness is heard, weighed, and understood. If we have someone we trust with our sadness, we can lament with them and feel understood.
  • Both sadness and lament are my personal experience. But with lament, I am aware that my emotion is shared, and therefore not as lonely as sadness.
  • Sadness leaves me feeling helpless. But since God shares my lament in at least hearing it, and since the sad thing does not cause God to despair, I am partially helped.
  • This all is, of course, by faith. Sadness is an emotional response. Lament, as sad as it is, has the value of making me reach toward God even in this very unpleasant way. Lament with God has purpose.
  • God feels sadness too. (We get our emotions from being made in His image.) For God, hope is stronger than sadness. So when I lament with God, I have the right to draw hope from Him. Lament with God brings hope.

I have tried to navigate my journey in a healthy way, but it is very unpredictable. I have lamented with a very small circle.  I find there are rainy day friends who come around when a sad things happen. They are curious. but when a sad thing happens, you really only want to share with someone who has shown they love you over the long haul, when things were good. That is the person who has earned trust.

It is hard for me to share sadness.

Perhaps you can identify with some of these personal observations:

  • I have always been able to “handle” myself emotionally. I am handicapped when it comes to sharing transparently. (This post is an attempt to learn)
  • It is a relief to share sadness. Part of the weight is lifted, at least temporarily.
  • Judging who to share with is tricky business. In lament I put myself out there, very vulnerably.
  • I am overly sensitive to how my friend responds. If I don’t feel empathy from him, I am embarrassed for having shared.

I have meditated on this theme often. I am in process.  Here is a post called Suffering. That which you avoid is what you need.
And here are some thoughts on how the gospel pattern helps with Prayer when suffering

Would you be willing to journey with me? I regularly blog about ways I am growing in Christ. I have a series of lessons about what I have learned in recent years about how God conforms us to Christ through what I call the “Gospel cycle.” Please get on my email list and I will send you the first lesson. I APPRECIATE IT!

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hope in lament