by Laura Brix Newbury
WE RARELY USE THE TERM LAMENT in conversation these days. With visions of sackcloth and ashes, it seems more in keeping with Old Testament life.
To lament is to passionately express sorrow or grief, giving voice to feelings that might otherwise stay quietly inside. The Bible provides many examples of people crying out to God in times of distress in the Psalms, Jeremiah, and (of course) Lamentations. Some of these laments are beautifully poetic, while others are raw with emotion. They often express confusion and fear of abandonment in times of trouble.
Even during this joyful Easter season, we have reason to lament the growing loss of life and livelihood as a result of COVID-19. We may hesitate to express our sadness in the name of positivity, but lamenting can be a healthy part of our faith journey. When we lift up our sorrow to the One who gives us healing and wholeness, we find renewal and purpose. My church in Chicago held a [virtual] Service of Lament to give us space to share our losses and seek comfort and hope for the future.
Rachel’s Day is another example of this transformation. Women of the ELCA designate the first Sunday in May as Rachel’s Day to mourn the loss of children who have died from gun violence. It takes its name from Jeremiah 31:15–17, in which Rachel grieves the loss of her children. The scripture says that Rachel refuses to be consoled, but the Lord promises hope and restoration. The Rachel’s Day litany begins with a lament for the loss of young lives, then turns to a cry for justice. We refuse to be defeated! We pray for peace, justice, hope!
Move into action
We do not lament for lament’s sake but to heal so that we can move into action. This process gives us the compassion and determination needed to alleviate the suffering of others through prayer, volunteering, and advocacy. Some may shy away from advocacy, seeing it as an improper mix of politics and religion. But Jesus never shied away from advocating for justice, and neither should we.
The ELCA advocates for many social justice and humanitarian issues. You can see an inspiring snapshot of their work in this video. There are so many causes we can advocate for as Christians–health care, the environment, and immigration reform, to name a few. Why not use this season of isolation to transform your own passion for justice into action, finding purpose in lament. Many of us are homebound, but we can still write letters, make phone calls, and study issues that affect our communities.
Every small effort, when combined with others, makes a difference!
Laura Brix Newbury lives in Chicago with her husband, Chris, and works as a consultant in the international development field. She attends Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Chicago.