When I first decided to include lament as an important part of my teaching on suffering, other Christians raised questions and objections about whether Christians should even practice lament. One of my favorite objections came as a snarky comment to my announcement that I was going to start a group to explore lament. My friend responded: “Oh, great. That’s what we need. A group to help us become better complainers.” The fallacy of my friend’s complaint was that we needed any help to become better complainers. We are all expert at that already.
My friend was joking. However, his joke contained a truth: many Christians do not think that lament is an appropriate practice for Christians. After announcing my group, I started collecting some of the ways Christians object to lament.
Objection 1: The language of lament is not the language of faith but a language of doubt.
Objection 2: Faith in God precludes our complaining to God. Our trust in God lead us more toward accepting life’s difficulties than complaining of life’s difficulties.
Objection 3: Christians are encouraged by Paul himself to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4) and to give thanks to God in all circumstances. I don’t see how lamenting could be an option for Christians given the teaching of Paul.
Objection 4: Isn’t lamenting just a way of baptizing our tendency to complain anyway? Why would we practice a way of praying that only leads us toward being better complainers?
Objection 5: If we already know that ‘all things work together for good for those who love the lord,’ then why would we lament? Shouldn’t we just be patient and wait for things to work out in the end?
Objection 6: Aren’t all of God’s promises fulfilled in Jesus? Lamenting seems to suggest that God has left things undone, that he hasn’t fulfilled his promises. Why lament when you already know that God has you in the palm of his hand?
Objection 7: If God is Sovereign and everything that happens does so because God wills it, then why not rest even in suffering knowing that his will can only be righteous and good? Why complain about anything since everything- including your present strugglesand suffering- is willed by God?
Objection 8: If you are going to advocate for the practice of lament then shouldn’t you also advocate for the practice of imprecation? Yet should Christians engage in such speech?
Objection 9: Lament is essentially selfish. It’s all about ‘me’ and my current complaints and hardships. Shouldn’t we be more concerned with the suffering of others rather than our own?
Objection 10: If go to worship every Sunday. I cannot recall ever singing a song of lament in worship. That goes whether I worship in a traditional hymn singing church or a church which sings contemporary songs. If lament is so important, why have I never sung a song of lament in church?
Objection 11: Lamenting your circumstances or predicament in life suggests that God is not being faithful to you. Did it ever occur to you that maybe YOU are the problem? That you are not as open as you should be to the promise of the Lord’s presence in any and every situation.
Objection 12: The psalmists often address God with loaded questions and imperatives. I don’t think it is appropriate to address God in that way.