This past year with the pandemic, being quarantined, and social and political unrest, we often struggle to make sense of daily life. As believers, we read 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which tells us to give thanks in all circumstances. To give thanks in all circumstances invites us to call out to God. There is a tension in a need for lament to engage personal and communal healing. When we lament, we cry out for His power and loving presence. We acknowledge knowing God “is with us” in our pain even though the pain often remains. Lament does not change what happened but admits the need to connect with how we feel.
We are a culture needing to lament and engage in a protest for our well-being. Romans 8:26 (NIV) says, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” If we stifle our lament, we allow others to have control over our adult authority. A year ago, we found ourselves learning to engage life with new limits. The stages of grief became real in the loss of certainty, control, and connection. We geared up for weeks and then months of adjusting to a “new normal.” It is now a year later, and there are grief and lament in what is lost.
To engage the distress we experience, lament – a protest for something more – allows individuals to engage both their self-agency and the hope for future healing. Close your eyes and think about a time you needed to lament – what are you experiencing in your body? Notice any numbness, frozenness of the soul, denial, tension, rage, distress, avoidance? We cannot undo the past. The emotional and physical sensations of grief and distress remain. Denial of these sensations leads to despair, and disruptive somatic manifestations of our grief remain. Our bodies speak what we cannot bear to put to words. Lament allows one to move through pain to a new orientation in life. With lament, we are kind and gentle toward our bodies, and the ability to listen to others and ourselves increases. Lament is an intimate risk as we engage our needs in a way that lets others see and know our needs.
As we move forward, giving thanks to God in all things, we must allow ourselves to feel, grieve, and lament even amidst our distress. Lack of lament results in a “stuckness” of life—a life where the future and joy are without hope. Avoidance of lament leaves us powerless. Engaging in our pain, lament embraces what one cannot control and allows Jesus to protest on our behalf (Luke 19:41, 45-48). It is a cry for life and a witness to our emotional self. Lament is not complaining, and it is not stagnant. Lament is engagement of self-agency and embodies Christ’s care for us. Only then can we simultaneously bless and release what is past and rejoice for the future as we enter an authentic relationship with ourselves, others, and God.
Kathie Stabbert has worked in big business, with non-profits, and within the church. Over the last several decades, her work has been extensively with women and youth as a teacher and mentor. She has traveled to Mexico, Cambodia, and China engaging the needs of children, the marginalized, and the displaced. She led numerous Bible studies and served as a mentor for over a decade which led her to further her education to gain more effective tools to support others in their healing journey through a relational psychodynamic approach, including strengths from Internal Family Systems (IFS), Emotional Focused Therapy (EFT), and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). She practices at our Bothell, Washington office.