Litany for Lament

God, our hearts are weary,
Broken, and sad.
Grief follows us;
Pain is our companion on the road.

We are divided: parents against children,
Brother against brother
Sister against sister,
Half-nation against half-nation.

The sins of our past have revisited us.
They were just beneath the surface,
Covered in a coat of whitewash.
We are newly aware of our complicity.

We mourn our blindness.
We regret our apathy.
We weep at the state of our world.
We wish we had done things differently.
We grieve the wrongs done by us and by others
And reap a harvest of shame.

We open our hearts before you;
We are vulnerable and at your mercy.
Let your will be done to us.
Refine us in your fire.

We purpose ourselves now to walk steadfastly and humbly
Through the chafing grief
And the ache of suffering,
Out to where the mercy falls. (1)

Lament has a long tradition among faith cultures, Christianity included. Lament is simply being present to suffering and present to the expression of grief. Happy-go-lucky Evangelicalism has largely forgotten it, and has instead taught its followers to shame those who engage in it. I think we would do well to remember our roots, to go to the book of Lamentations, the book of Job, the Psalms, even to the lamentations of Christ himself (2).

Lament is an important part of the transformation of pain. Richard Rohr says, “If you do not transform your pain, you will surely transmit it to those around you and even to the next generation” (3). I think we have an opportunity here: to lower our defenses and allow ourselves to bear witness to our pain and that of others, and to stop disbelieving others when they tell us they are hurting because we are either a) disconnected from suffering (i.e. “stuffing it”) or b) consumed by it because we’ve never authentically grieved.

In terms of current events: Lament is not a partisan effort. On both sides of the political aisle we have a lot to lament. This isn’t new, but it does seem clearer now in the wake of the most divisive election of my lifetime. Maybe if we hadn’t forgotten how to lament, to really sit with grief and pain for a hot minute, just long enough to let it pierce our armor, instead of only ever reacting to them; we would not be finding ourselves in the situation we are in.

What I’m saying is this: authentic lament might be a checkpoint on the road to reconciliation. It might be one of the keys to transforming our collective pain into something redemptive and beautiful.

  1. “Where the Mercy Falls” is the title of a song by David Ruis and Bob Hartry.

  2. See Matthew 26

  3. Rohr, Richard. _The Naked Now_