Written by Guest Contributor Marissa Bondurant
Have you ever experienced that awkward moment at Bible study or small group when they go around and ask for prayer requests, and you blurt out something about your aunt’s dog dying because the real requests on your heart are too heavy to put into words?
Or is that just me…?
What do we do when our prayers don’t fit neatly onto prayer request cards? What do we say when our hearts are broken, and we just want to scream? Is there space for those prayers? Is there language for those deep groans? Is there anyone we can share them with?
Yes. To all of it. It’s called lament. And it is a merciful gift from God, for our weary hearts.
What is Lament?
In his book Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, Mark Vroegop defines lament as “the honest cry of a hurting heart wrestling with the paradox of pain and the promise of God’s goodness.”
Contrary to what you might think at first, telling Jesus that we’re upset about something doesn’t diminish His affections for us. Nor does it strip God of His character or negate His promises. In fact, your willingness to be honest with God is proof of your trust in His goodness. If you believed that God didn’t care about you, or that His character was flawed, or that His promises couldn’t be trusted… you would simply walk away. You wouldn’t cry out to Him. You’d give Him the silent treatment.
If there is anyone who can hold your deepest concerns, your greatest fears, and the parts of you that are so raw that you don’t have words to describe them, it is the Lord. The Maker of heaven and earth. The One who shuts in the seas and tells the waves where to stop. The One who came in the form of a baby and whose voice calmed the storm. The One who now lives with us as The Helper and comforts us in our weakest moments. The Triune God loves you, and He delights in you—raw, cracked, oozing prayers, and all.
That is the gift of lament.
How do we Lament?
Bible scholars agree that there are four major steps in the lament process.
Turn to the Lord
Express a complaint or question
Make a request
Anchor our hearts on truth
As image bearers of God, we share His passion for seeing our world redeemed and restored. We have the privilege of copying Jesus Himself, who lamented before His arrest:
“And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:41-44)
Jesus was honest with the Father, admitting His desire to avoid the pain of death. But even as His heart wrestled with the pain ahead of Him, He still submitted to the Father’s goodness and the trustworthiness of His plans.
We get to follow Christ’s example as we walk our children through suffering. We get to cry out to the Lord with humble hearts, agree with God that it’s not supposed to be this way, and ask Him to make things right in His perfect timing.
Lament in Community
When walking through something as challenging as pediatric cancer, it is helpful to have the support of a community. Not only can they serve us in practical ways like delivering dinner, but they can help us work through the process of lament
Before we look at how a friend can help us lament, it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes part of our lament is the fact that we lack community while walking through difficult seasons. If feeling isolated is adding to your suffering, I encourage you to:
1. Keep praying and asking God to bring you a friend.
2. Consider joining a Christian-based support group (like Christian Parents of Kids with Cancer). (Note: If you join any kind of support group, whether in-person or online, if the group isn’t lifting you up and encouraging you, you need to give yourself permission to leave.)
3. Consider if there is a trustworthy friend you already have that you could be a little more open and honest with.
A support community doesn’t have to be large. Sometimes we just need one friend to step in and lament with us. Some ways that friend can help us lament include:
Helping us see who or what we are turning to rather than the Lord in our pain.
Encouraging us to present our complaints and questions to God in a way that feels both honest and faithful.
Interceding for us and praying those bold hope-filled requests when we are prone to lose heart.
And anchoring our hearts by reminding us of the truth of God’s good character no matter what happens in the days ahead.
Lament is a beautiful gift from God for our weary hearts. And we can lament with hope because God has already given us the end of the story: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
If your heart is breaking for the suffering of your child, accept God’s invitation to lament. Bring Him your weariness, and let the grace of God remind you of His unfailing love.
Marissa is a wife and a mom to four girls. Having walked through childhood cancer with her second daughter, Marissa now seeks out ways to comfort others with the gospel comfort she received (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). She writes for Christian Parents of Kids with Cancer, as well as on her own website www.marissabondurant.com (where you can get a free copy of her eBook Rooted and Grounded). You can also find her on IG (@marissa.bondurant).