Aubrey Sampson and her husband, Kevin, opened a church plant and were caring for their young son as he recovered from spinal cord surgery when she was diagnosed with a painful, chronic, lifelong disease. In the midst of this, her cousin was killed in a tragic hiking accident. She was forced to live within the reality of grief and pain. Through her journey, she found that hope and lament are not opposites, but that lament tunes our ears and hearts to hope.
You talk about the many laments in the Bible. Why do you think we don’t focus on this part of Scripture?
We want the hope and resurrection and don’t want to talk about the reality of suffering. Not just that suffering exists but that God can use it for our sanctification. The theology I inherited was focused on New Testament hope, victory, power, and overcoming. Perhaps we shy away from lament because it forces us to admit our own brokenness and limits.
Why do we need instruction in how to lament?
Many of us have never understood the concept of lamenting. We need permission to complain to God, to get mad, to grieve. In our intimate, covenant relationship with God, it isn’t just that we can lament, but that He invites us to lament.
Talk about a turning point for you in your season of lament.
During my lament, I struggled with my usual spiritual practices—reading my Bible, prayer, journaling—things that had previously helped me draw near to God weren’t working. God led me to a spiritual director. My time with her helped me to see that I was trying to control the outcome of my season of lament. I was still in a performance mindset; I wanted to do lament right. She helped me invite God’s grace into my process.
Slowly over time I realized that I was worshipping the God who gives me blessings and benefits and I needed to worship God for Himself. I had to move to trust God for Himself alone, not what He does for me.
What does a season of pain and lament do to our close relationships?
Initially I thought that my pain was only happening to me and that my husband should feel sorry for me and understand me. I was self-absorbed and that caused conflict. What I didn’t understand was how much my pain was impacting my husband. My pain actually hurt him and changed his life as well. He was grieving the wife that was. Together, we sought counseling in this season.
Why do you think people get stuck in lament?
Some people don’t get past the questions of lament—the wondering about how God could allow pain and grief. They get stuck and walk away from God and faith. I do know that God is with those who are brokenhearted, even when they don’t feel Him. God is faithful and He does show up. Also, there is an aspect of endurance in lament—to keep asking God, to keep inviting him in, to not give up.
We know that there is resurrection, restoration, and a new creation, but we also know it may be years and there are aspects of this life that we may never understand until eternity.
How can we walk honestly and helpfully with others in their lament?
Our pain can be isolating, but God’s people are designed to be the presence of God for others. We can practice hope, love, and “withness” for others so they don’t feel alone in their lament. The ministry of presence is sitting with people in the darkness. We can hold onto hope until they too can see the light and hope.
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