Our news feeds are being filled with the latest from the war in Ukraine each day, and much of what we read is utterly shocking and heartbreaking. And we know that there are so many other countries in the world that are continually being torn apart by wars, brutal dictators and unfair systems.
Christians are being targeted in more and more places too – the level of danger is increasing and we can be left feeling alarmed and unsettled, as well as angry at the injustice being meted out in this world.
Alongside this, we have just witnessed an incredibly sobering week of revelations from within the Church itself. Leaders who have been disgraced and forced to resign include Hillsong's founder Brian Houston and the CEO of 24/7 Prayer Mike Andrea. Sadly, this devastating news does not stand alone: this has come after a regular spattering of similar news over the last few years.
When we look at the world all around us, wars and natural disasters abounding, the Church should be a place of sanctuary and safety. So, when we discover that such high-profile leaders have fallen in such a public way it can feel like there is no sacred space left. We can be left feeling utterly bewildered – and betrayed.
So: where do we turn when everything seems to be falling apart?
Permission to be honest
This is where learning to lament is so powerful. It certainly isn't right that power-crazed people, whether politicians or church leaders, can abuse their positions – and seemingly get away with it for so long. It is natural to want to cry out – and the practice of biblical lament gives us the permission to do just that.
The Bible is full of examples of lament – you just need to take a look at Psalms, Job and Lamentations to read of people pouring out heartfelt anguish and pain.
I would say that God gives us permission – in fact, more than that, invites us to do the same. He knows that if we don't express our distress, we can either become totally consumed by it or ignore it by trying to push it down. The latter can result in damaging consequences as the emotion seeks to find an outlet for itself by other means.
It is so important that we give ourselves permission to respond honestly to the situations and circumstances we see and experience. Utilising lament allows us to do just that, but it also helps us to anchor our souls to God.
Writing our own laments
If you have never practised lamenting before, can I suggest you try writing one yourself?
If we look at the lament psalms many (not all) follow four stages, which can be helpful for us to follow:
Address – speaking to God as we would speak to someone we know well – there is an intimacy there.
Complaint – letting the agony and anguish out – not sanitising it at all (as God already knows it anyway!).
Request – a direct request to God for change and / or deliverance.
Statement of trust – reminding ourselves of different aspects of God's character and choosing to speak out our trust in him afresh.
Taking this as a template, here is a very simple, short lament I have just written to cry out to God about the situations raging in our world this day:
How long Lord? My God, will this never end?
The destruction of cities, of lives, of people.
Seeing the anguish as others try to flee.
While those intent on evil pursue and rain down bullets
Every day inching forward to try to take more land.
Not caring about the carnage they leave in their wake.
People displaced, in danger from others.
They are seeking refuge, but some become trapped in another form of evil.
God why are the innocent so often caught up in such pain?!
And how long will you let it go on for?
Turning to your Church Lord, sometimes it seems no better.
With leaders who abuse their position, then try to hide their tracks.
Again, the innocent are tormented and congregations' trust is shaken.
We are laid low, utterly broken by the state of this world.
Ashamed that those who teach in your name are engaging in evil acts too.
God won't you step in? Come bring your justice and your peace.
I know that in an instant you can change things – Lord please do it!
Stop the spilling of innocent blood; bring them to a place of refuge and safety.
Topple leaders who are deceivers and raise up godly ones to take their places.
God, while all around seems lost, I do know that you are good.
I remember the stories of deliverance from long ago,
And trust that you will do it again.
I believe that you hold the world in your hands
That you will display your glory and holiness.
While I do not understand, I choose to trust you again today.
You certainly do not need to be a writer to engage in the writing of a lament, but, if you'd rather start by utilising a biblical one there are many to choose from – here are some Psalms you might want to look at, and begin by praying through one that resonates with you today: 3-5, 7, 9-10, 13, 17, 22, 25-26, 28, 31, 36, 39, 40:12-17, 42-43, 54-57, 59, 61, 64, 70-71, 77, 86, 120, 141-142.
Claire Musters is a writer, speaker and editor who blogs at clairemusters.com. Her most recent books are Every Day Insights: Disappointment and Loss (which includes more on lament) and Grace-Filled Marriage. The latter was written with her husband, and they have provided a series of free videos to accompany the book, which can be accessed on the Big Church Read website. Claire also writes and edits for Premier Woman Alive and Christianity magazines.