It's Okay to Lament the Pain in the Pandemic

Lament. Despair. Pain. It’s all in the Bible.

Surrounding armies. Unrelenting plagues. Vengeful enemies—yup, the Bible’s got it.

In light of the world’s current suffering, what do we make of it? Knowing God created this world and its people, how does the character of God align with this crisis?

Is there a proper way to respond?

Some of the holiest people in the Bible, including Jesus, express sorrow, grief, or confusion (Luke 19:41-44, Mark 14:36).

Some may view lamenting and grieving as “lacking faith.” To admit grief...isn’t that a faithless or doubting moment?

Thankfully, there is a strong Biblical foundation for expressing grief and allowing God to help us through it. God provided 66 books to cover the whole gamut of human emotion, suffering, and hope. And one of those books is called Lamentations.

“Through the Struggle”

The writer of Lamentations is crying out to God after the destruction of Jerusalem. No temple, priests to mediate, or sanctuary to be in God’s presence. They felt isolated and abandoned.

The writer cries out, or laments, to God in vivid Hebrew poetry…

The hearts of the people

cry out to the Lord.

You walls of Daughter Zion,

let your tears flow like a river

day and night;

give yourself no relief,

your eyes no rest.

Arise, cry out in the night,

as the watches of the night begin;

pour out your heart like water

in the presence of the Lord.

Lift up your hands to him

for the lives of your children,

who faint from hunger

at every street corner.

Lamentations 2:18-19

Mark Vroegop, a pastor and author of an entire book on lament, offers this powerful observation of and definition for lament:

The missing element in our grief was a familiarity with lament—the heartfelt and honest talking to God through the struggles of life.

from "Strong Churches Speak the Language of Lament"

The above excerpt from Lamentations is heartfelt, honest, and transparent. Its song is struggle.

Lamenting to God is Okay

As people of faith, are we honest enough with ourselves to express our grief and anxiety to God?

The Bible gives you permission to “let your tears flow like a river” and to “pour out your heart like water” to God.

Maybe you are bottling up your anxiety. If you turn to 24/7 news and social media for solace, they will magnify your inner-grief.

Social media is a horrible medium to judge your life of faith. You will find sound bites, memes, and one-dimensional hashtags which offer a temporary soothing of your anxiety, but do they offer deep healing? Are they helping you through the pain you’re experiencing in this pandemic?

As the Body of Christ, are we allowing our congregations, friends, and families to express their fear and grief free from judgment?

Are we allowing ourselves to “cast our cares on the LORD," the One who was “pierced for our transgressions” (Psalm 55:22, Isaiah 53:5)?

The Movement of Lament

Who’s that friend you can share anything with? That person, who under no circumstance, would take your grief into their hands and then crumple it? Your fears and anxieties are safe to share with them.

The Bible offers this same security for humanity.

Expressing sorrow and grief in the Bible is transactional. It moves from the person’s heart in an honest expression to God, to the One who cares for that grief.

You have kept count of my tossings;

put my tears in your bottle.

Are they not in your book?

King David (Psalm 56:8)

This movement of Biblical lament breeds trust in God and leads to healing. It contrasts with society’s versions of complaint and anger. It also differs from Christian culture’s “faith over fear” mantras, which contain truth but don’t help with dealing with trauma, loss, or grief.

Beyond Lament

For today, I wanted to give you permission to grieve this pandemic.

For those who’ve lost jobs, health, or family through this worldwide outbreak, lament to God. He cares deeply for you. He won’t crumple your fears.

For this post, I offered Biblical wisdom from the Tanakh (Old Testament) to help define lament. In my next post, I will explore the deep hope the Bible offers in its remaining books.

In the meantime, I want to leave you with this quote from Mark Vroegop:

God has given us this minor-key song because of the grace that comes as we turn, complain, ask, and trust.

also from "Strong Churches Speak the Language of Lament"

This article was updated on March 6, 2021

Jordan Hopkins

Jordan is a freelance content writer and educator. He is passionate about serving others and amplifying their narratives through quality writing. You can find him hanging with his family, fishing, playing guitar, and grinding the best beans for his morning coffee.