By Guest Writer
The path became holy ground. As we wound our way through the sunlit woods, our conversation turned to the upcoming anniversary of her beloved boy’s death. Pain and dread cut through my friend like a knife. Words stuck in her throat and tears fell as she doubled over in grief. I stopped beside her and placed my hand on her back, yearning to bring comfort where no comfort could be found. There we stood in the middle of the path, undone before the Lord and each other. It seemed only the trees stood sentinel with us, our hearts crying out, “God, where are you? We can’t bear this pain! Why have you forsaken us?”
Can we really talk to God like this? Can we dare to call such questioning “holy”? I know I only dare enter this space of protest because He welcomes lament. And God doesn’t merely allow such soul-wrenching wrestling—He invites it.
Lament—the practice of bringing our struggles, mourning, and sorrow to God—is good and right. Scripture instructs us to “pour out [our] hearts before Him” (Psalm 62:8). In fact, over a third of the psalms are songs of sorrow and lament. Even Jesus, knowing that He would bring Lazarus back to life, was deeply troubled and openly wept over death (John 11:33–36).
We are not alone as we carry the weight of sadness, anger, disappointment, anxiety, and fear. All creation joins us as we groan for God to heal and restore every person, place, and thing (Romans 8:22). In lament, God offers us a release-valve as we actively express our emotions. We can pour out our pain to Him both personally and communally alongside others.
God invites us to echo the psalmists as we sing sorrow’s songs, and to honestly express our doubts and distress (see Psalm 13, 22, and 42). Yet, we often decline His invitation to lament, and the pressure of pain and anguish builds. Why do we resist? Maybe we feel guilty questioning God and think it’s sinful to admit struggle. Maybe we assume that acceptable faith should always appear positive and unshakeable. Or, maybe we equate being close to God with mountaintop experiences full of praise and celebration.
Let’s be clear: expressing both praise and pain to God is worship. Whether we are joyfully raising our hands or sorrowfully turning our tear-streaked faces toward Him, we are seeking God and engaging in genuine relationship with our Creator. As we lament, as we grieve, Jesus stands with us as the one who has wrestled with and beaten death itself. He gives the comfort of His presence that soothes, restores, and brings us back to life.
Patti Sauls lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband Scott and daughters, Abby and Ellie, where they serve alongside the people of Christ Presbyterian Church. Prior to living in Nashville, the Sauls planted churches in Kansas City and Saint Louis and served at New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church. A trained speech therapist, Patti also enjoys serving behind the scenes, hiking with friends, and reading good books.
Written by Patti Sauls