The Book of Lamentations Teaches Us How Pain & Praise Can Co-Exist

In the Book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah pours out his soul in poetic anguish as he laments the destruction of Jerusalem. For those who suffer and endure the various ills of life (which is all of us at some point or another), the verses can be especially poignant.

Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger. (Lamentations 1:12)

[God] hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood. He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes. And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity. And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord. (Lamentations 3:15-17)

Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time? Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old. But thou hast utterly rejected us; thou art very wroth against us. (Lamentations 5:22)

Do any of these verses touch your tender heart? You’re not alone. When faced with disease, death, natural disasters, political turmoil, international wars, or private agonies, it often feels like the pain is never-ending. That the Lord has utterly forsaken you. How can we connect with God in the midst of such pain? The Book of Lamentations teaches us that pain and praise can co-exist, keeping us tethered to God and expressing gratitude for His guiding hand even in the worst of times.

Lamentations 3 opens with a series of heart-rending cries but then transitions into a prayer of trust and eventual hope for deliverance.

This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:21-26)

What does this mean for us? How can we feel our pain is validated and honored while finding a way to offer praise when we don’t really feel like it? Praising the Lord can feel impossible sometimes, even if we intellectually know we need to do it.

One of the best ways we can start allowing space for both praise and pain is to schedule time for each in prayer and contemplation. Don’t wait for an emotional moment when you might be overcome or rushed as you’re praying before bed. Give yourself time to write down some thoughts. What is hurting most right now? What do you most need from the Lord? How have you seen God’s hand in your life? What are some silver linings or blessings you notice, as simple as mundane as they might be? Ponder on these feelings.

Then, kneel in prayer. If it would be helpful, set a timer. Allow yourself to express your pain within that timeframe. Then, set the same amount of time and try to fill it with praise. Follow your list and ask for help in seeing God’s hand in your life.

While prayer and connection with God is a deeply spiritual and psychological practice, it still takes practice. Practical exercises like the one above can help build lasting habits and strengthen your spiritual muscles.

Like Jeremiah, we will all have periods in our lives to lament. But Jeremiah also showed us unwavering faith in the Lord and a willingness to bring himself to the throne of God, no matter his circumstances or feelings. With a little courage and heart, we can do the same.

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