Lament and Hope

Christy JohnsonLament. Not likely the first thing that comes to mind when considering vocation, or a seminary at that… “I love working out my sense of call because I get to cry a lot!” This week in the Touchstone class, we actually did focus on lament, what it means, how it’s expressed, what it looks like to lament one’s own pain and to come alongside others in theirs. While not something people tend to run toward, lamentation is an inevitable part of the human condition; yet on the flipside, suffering lament within the safety of God’s embrace leads to deeper, more substantial hope. My experience this week has been just that.

As a preface to this focus on lament, we had the opportunity to read the book of Ruth along with corresponding commentary, read an interview with Christine Pohl, “Grace Enters with the Stranger,” watch a student chapel address on obedience in suffering, hear Dr. John Goldingay’s perspective on the Psalms as means for prayer, and engage with Psalm 42 through reflection and written response. Regarding lament, I believe that the *Theology of Work Commentary* sums up Ruth’s grief in this: “In God, hardship is not hopelessness.” In light of this reality, when that all-too-familiar stranger of lament comes knocking hard on our lives, we can, in God, welcome it and experience God’s grace in its presence. As insinuated by Leah Fortson in her chapel address, Ezekiel embodied this welcome well, as a way to relate to the grievous experience of his people through his obedience to God in the face of his wife’s death (Ezek. 24:15-18). In his talk on the Psalms, Goldingay presented a structural framework from which laments are typically rendered. While I have read Psalms on numerous occasions, leaning toward its laments during times of personal grief or that of others, I became aware only this week of the structure held within these vulnerable cries for help. Guided by Psalm 42, a cry of lament that prophesied Jesus’ words on the cross: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”, we reflected on its content through Lectio Divina and wrote our own laments based on its structure. This experience, having been impacted by the above resources, allowed me to put words to an area of personal grief and opened the way to deeper hope at its completion.

As ministers in a broken world, the capacity to lament personally and with others marks us as true believers in Christ, the “Man of sorrows,” who suffered and holds us in our suffering. And this same capacity engenders a deeper hope in the same Lord, “the God of hope,” who, through his embrace in the face of our suffering, “[fills us] with all joy and peace in faith so that [we] overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

PS: I did get that Sabbath rest two weeks ago, and continue to do so.

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