by Kristin Huffman, Mission Advocate
In the days known as Holy Week, we experience a host of emotions and experiences across a vast spectrum. Palm Sunday was marked by celebration and rejoicing, but by Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, these feelings of joy and exuberance are replaced with bitter lament and deep suffering. In these last few days before Easter, I encourage you to make space for lament and confession in your times with God.
During the worship services at the church I attend, we offer a corporate prayer of confession and a moment of silence for us to confess our personal sins—and that’s all it is, just a brief moment. Gosh, I can hardly get started with my confession and we are off to the next thing in the service, receiving the assurance of pardon. For me, I need to spend significant time with God examining my life, my conscience—going through my built-up layers of protection and denial to really get to a place where I’m ready to confess to Jesus and receive His forgiveness. True confession is not simply a recitation of our wrongdoings, but a lament for how we have fallen short of who God would have us be.
In today’s culture, we don’t do a very good job with the practices of confession and lament. We often move on quickly from sin, grief or challenge, or ignore it altogether. We are taught to find a quick resolution to pain and anguish, and we often suppress these emotions through denial, busyness or products that help us feel numb. Grief and lament do not negate the victory we have in Christ, they emphasize it. It serves as a tangible expression of our mourning—that all is not yet as it should be—but we trust that, one day, God will right all wrongs and heal all wounds.
In liturgical settings, today is known as Maundy Thursday. It represents Jesus’ last night on earth before His death and resurrection. In His final moments with His disciples, He chose to wash their feet and pray for them. Then, Jesus modeled lament for us, sharing His grief with others and crying out to God in the Garden of Gethsemane:
“Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, ‘Sit here while I go over there to pray.’ He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, ‘My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.’
“He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.’” —Matthew 26:36-39 NLT
Throughout the rest of this Holy Week, allow space for grief and lament in your final Lenten reflections. Read some of the psalms of lament (there are many) or listen to the Lamentations album. You might even want to write your own personal prayer of grief and lament. We have published a prayer guide to help encourage you in this practice, which you can download here. As you step into this spiritual practice, here are a few prompts to help inform your prayers:
What are you grieving personally? What has recently brought forward feelings of sadness or fear in you?
What is happening in your neighborhood, your community, your nation or the world that evokes a spirit of lament or mourning in your heart?
What would it look like for you to lament for the peoples and places around the globe who don’t yet know the hope, love and forgiveness of Jesus, and who yearn to find peace and hope? How about for those whose hearts are hard and resistant to the Gospel?
May God give you abundant grace as you practice the holy act of lament in these final days leading up to Easter. Know that God loves you and is with you in all circumstances.
To read more from our 2023 Lenten series, click here.