by Rick Love
I sat stunned, angry, and broken hearted after reading the horrific news. Over 300 people killed in a terrorist attack at a mosque in Egypt.
I began the day by meditating on Psalm 16:11 – “In your presence is fullness of joy.” Next, I spent some time meditating on Romans 14:17 about the righteousness, peace and joy of the kingdom of God.
I long for the righteousness, peace and joy of the kingdom in my life and enjoy praising God for his blessings. But the news from Egypt rightly interrupted my praise. It reminded me that I live in a broken, bleeding world.
I was especially upset about this attack in Egypt because there have been so many massacres recently:
- Fifty-nine people killed by gun fire at a country Music festival in Las Vegas (October 1, 2017)
- Eight people killed in New York by a truck (October 31, 2017)
- Twenty-Six people killed by gun fire at a Texas Baptist church (November 5, 2017)
- Fifty people killed in a suicide bomb blast in Nigeria (November 21, 2017)
- Three hundred people killed by bombs and gun fire at a Mosque in Egypt (November 24, 2017)
I am much better at praise than I am at lament. Yet one third of the Psalms are laments. Prayers of lament are an important part of my spiritual heritage as a follower of Jesus.
Yet I struggle with lament because I want to ignore and stay away from pain. I realize this is a natural tendency in all people. But peacemakers engage conflict. So we need to learn how to enter into the suffering of the world.
We need to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). We need to bring our suffering or the suffering of others into God’s presence. And we do that through the prayer of lament.
A lament is a prayer of complaint found in over 50 Psalms (see Psalm 6 and Psalm 22 for examples). But lament “is not whining. It is not a cry into a void. Lament is a cry directed to God. It is the cry of those who see the truth of the world’s deep wounds and the cost of seeking peace.” (Reconciling All Things, p.78)
Earlier this year I taught “Peacemaking in a Divided Society” at Bethlehem Bible College in Palestine. On the last day of class I taught on lament.
I had every student write their own Psalm of lament and asked those who could, to pray it out. After tearful prayers and silence, one of my students, Shukry, asked if he could sing a song. He and the Palestinian Christians broke out into a deeply moving song about peace. Lament led to praise!
In their pain my students remembered that the wounds of the Prince of Peace will heal this wounded, weary world.
Lord teach us to lament. Teach us to bring our pain and the pain of others into your presence. For you have promised, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).