Lament

I think it is time that I start talking out loud to God.

I have been sad lately. Not bummed out that your team lost the game sad. Sad because my parents, who have been married for almost forty years, are separating, maybe divorcing. Since hearing this news, I have been wearing this sadness like a blanket. The sadness is coloring all that I see; it is a tiring and heavy sadness. This sadness has been pinning me to the couch for hours at a time, making it so that things I would normally find to be simple tasks (making dinner, keeping up with e-mail, even writing for this blog) seem monumental and somehow not worth my effort all at the same time. I alternate between tears and an emotional flat line, one sappy song lyric or beautiful sunset away from the waterworks starting again.

No one wants to feel this way, so I have also been trying to find ways to escape the sadness, to run as fast as I can away from it because it scares me. If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you may remember that one “tried and true” way I have for dealing with sadness is eating my way through it. I write this somewhat sarcastically, since my rational brain knows that Haagen Dazs ice cream is no match for true sadness. Yet a different part of me continues to think that if I just eat enough peanut M and Ms I will somehow feel better, even though all it gets me is a stomach ache in the end.

Another strategy I have been using to push the sadness away is watching a ton of television. Again, my less than rational thought process involves trying to veg out and ignore the sadness long enough so that it will just go away on its own. But the joke was on me the other day. At one point in one of my favorite shows, a father, who is not religious, asks his religious six-year-old son how to pray. The son says, “It’s simple dad. You just talk to God like God’s your best friend.” Now I am all about talking to God. Each night as I lay in bed, I thank God for all that I have to be thankful for and I lift up in prayer those who need God’s help. But I do this in my head. And in this television show, the little boy and his dad kneel down next to his bed , and they both start talking out loud to God.

This short television scene got me thinking about two things. The first is the idea of lament, that is, of passionately expressing grief to God. In fact, approximately one-third of the psalms recorded in the book of Psalms are lament psalms, prayers that describe a situation of distress or anguish. While some of these are private or individual prayers of lament, many of them are communal psalms. They are the words of the Israelite people who came together in worship and who voiced their suffering out loud together and directed their sadness to God. There must be something powerful about taking what is in your head and heart and externalizing it, giving it over to God, for so much of this lovely book of the Bible to be devoted to lament.

The second thing I started thinking about is the famous verses from Ecclesiastes: “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens … A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (3:1, 4). In the past, I had always thought of this as a way of saying that life has it ups and downs, that we need to take the good with the bad. But now I am hearing something different in it. What I hear more than anything is the fact that we need to take time for weeping and laughing, for mourning and dancing. It can be so easy in our busy lives to do what I have been trying (rather unsuccessfully, I might add) to do these past few weeks in the face of my parents separation: to skimp on the time we spend on sorrow by drowning ourselves in television or food or any other thing that takes our mind of our sadness. I can see how I have not been taking the time I need to for this sadness. It will not be escaped. I must take the time to be in this sadness now.

And fortunately for me, I do not need to be in this sadness alone. Instead of keeping it all in my head and heart, I am going to try speaking or crying it out loud to God. I know I am going to feel silly at first. But it can’t make the sadness worse, and it just might lessen the burden to let God carry some of it for me.

When in your life have you felt really sad? What did you do to deal with the sadness? How healthy were the things you did to deal with your sadness?

How do you normally pray? What benefits can you see of praying out loud to God?

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