Biblical Lament: A Journey Together

The book ended up in my online shopping cart after the Christmas holiday. Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace Lament by Mark Vroegop. It had received a stellar review by a credible source and something in me responded to the idea of lament. At the time, I was contemplating the new year ahead and what themes I felt the Lord would have me consider. As many people do, I had been pondering phrases or words for the year on behalf of myself and my family, making lists of things to pray over each beloved one. The book came in the mail and I perused the forward and glanced through the chapters, but ultimately, it went in the ever expanding pile of “must reads” near my morning gathering spot. I would often see the title along the spine when I was daily sitting with Him in my familiar place and even commented to a friend in early January that I almost sensed “lament” was to be a theme for the year. Nonetheless, other reading took priority. After all, didn’t lament seem a bit too nihilistic of a theme for the year? And while I was curious about the topic, there was also a hesitation. If I would have been willing to lean into my own interior thoughts about the content, I might have unearthed some uncomfortable feelings about this idea of lament. And knowing how the Lord sometimes works in my life, I certainly wasn’t too eager to become too educated on the topic because it might mean personal experience would be required. But I never let these thoughts fully develop at the time. I casually set the book aside knowing that eventually I would return to it. My stack of “must read” books is like a marathon with a continuously moving finish line. I recently reviewed my order history of books and vowed “No more, Angie” until that stack is diminished!

And then the day arrived when that little book was swiftly moved not only to the top of my reading stack, but into my hands. I had awakened early. Not atypical for my daily rhythm, but this morning was different. It was March 19, 2020. We were several days into an unprecedented time of worldwide chaos, due to a Pandemic. Only a few days ago, I was breaking down the word to even decipher its meaning when a friend first uttered it. I processed the word, “pan means all”, like the long gone Pan American Airlines. Other related words had been flooding my vocabulary, like social distancing, and coronavirus. But they all came together and found relatedness under one important word: lament. This morning, I awakened wondering if the predicted 7-10″ of snow had begun to fall outside. I rolled around the previous evenings conversation with my husband about whether or not we should make an early morning visit to the grocery store in order to obtain the items we had been unable to purchase in recent days, stores being flooded with buyers and cleaned out of most crucial items due to low level but widespread panic this epidemic had caused. There was a message in my inbox from our church that included a video dress from the Bishop of our diocese. As I listened intently to his insightful address to our congregation, twice mind you, I instantly grabbed the book from my shelf. Things were coming together quickly in my mind. I was realizing it had been no coincidence that I ordered this book a few months ago. At the moment I was even feeling like it was ordained. The idea of lament as a theme for the year didn’t seem as unfitting as it previously had. In rather abrupt fashion, this unwanted virus had turned all our lives upside down. And I knew full well, the Lord was and had been beckoning me into this topic of biblical lament.

This is an explanation of the “why” and “how” of this moment for me. And now I extend an invitation to you: Join me as I follow the Lord into this topic of biblical lament. Given the present threatening situation, the widely varied responses to that threat and what this may all mean for our personal lives, there could not be a more appropriate time to consider this theme. Someone once said, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Presently, my ear is attentive to what the Lord would teach me about the practice of lament. I am seeing a connection about why I had the impulse to purchase the book early in the year and am quickly gaining clarity this on so many other things that have been burdening my heart. If any of this resonates with you, I hope you will come along. Maybe like me, you have a lack of understanding about lament. Or perhaps you question the real value of the practice. Or you have a sense of hesitation about the subject for the same reasons I do, because quite frankly, I’m not that fond of suffering! If so, you are in good company. Come along with me. Perhaps it won’t be so intimidating if we journey together.