I love going to worship on Sunday morning…except when I don’t feel like it.
I anticipate being in worship, singing songs of praise and adoration to the Lord and hearing a message from the Word of the Lord. But there are times I just want to be quiet and other times I just want to sit and cry. I have yet to go to a worship service that makes room for stillness or sorrow.
A number of years ago, I sat in a seminar with musical artist and theologian Michael Card as he explained how there seemed to be so little space given in our worship to sorrow and pain. It was as if worship was only meant to be uplifting and refreshing. For those experiencing loss, depression or distance from God, this continual diet of worship left no room for them. What language was there for them to seek God?
Michael suggested that we need to recapture the lost language of lament. Lamentation is the language of crying out to the Lord in our pain or sorrow and asking for His intervention or at least His perspective. When I consider that half of the book of Psalms from which we derive much praise language is written in the language of lament, this makes a lot of sense.
There have been some Sunday mornings when I have sat in worship, wishing someone would give me space to grieve. I have been asked if we could make space for quiet so that people could personally engage with God in whatever they are feeling. I think we need more mourning worship services.
I propose we set aside a few Sundays in the church year for lamenting. There are things we all can lament. We could lament our sin and penchant for wandering from the Lord and His call. We could lament the losses of the past season, be it a few months or a year. Maybe we could take a service and lament the passing of people in the congregation rather than just making it small part of our announcement or prayer.
To put this all in perspective, biblical lament does not focus solely on the circumstances of loss or pain. As Card points out, each lament rests on a fulcrum, a balancing point that starts heavy with the pain, but moves to expressions of faith and trust in the Lord. True lament cries and wails in sorrow, and then pivots to whispers and sighs of faith and confidence.
This finds its way into worship through prayers and songs of praise that rise from hurting souls that have found release into worship. As people find they can release their pain into the hands of the Father, they also can pivot to express their trust and confess their confidence that the Father has heard and accepted their cries – or should I say OUR cries.
This is my modest proposal. Can we make some generous room in our worship for lament?
For further reading:
A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament (Michael Card, 2005)
The Hidden Face of God: Finding the Missing Door to the Father through Lament (Michael Card, 2007)