I’m good at swallowing grief. I eat my own and the grief of those around me. Some days, it gets shoved down my throat faster than I can take it. Mass shootings. Unresolved hurt in relationships. The pain of leaving church and losing community. Parenting blow-ups and intergenerational trauma. Policing and silencing of voices online. The endless, messy internal work of healing. The loss of able and healthy bodies. It piles up, layer by complicated layer, and the rage, the anguish, the tears get stuck right in the deepest center of my gut.
I walk around with all of that lodged inside myself, so used to the feeling that I’m almost numb to it. Or is it that I need to keep it down so I can simply . . . live? And so I go about my life, living but holding — holding the weight, holding the tension, holding my breath.
Soon, I don’t even realize how long I’ve been holding, how much I’ve been needing to release all that’s been building up, until I’m in the presence of others who are holding it all too. In each other’s eyes, in the things left unsaid in our conversations, in the squeezing of each other’s arms, there is mutual understanding without explanation. There is comfort.
Recently, I was in a sanctuary full of women of color, some of us meeting for the first time, all of us just glad to be together, finally. It was meant to be a service, but it felt more like communion — each of us coming to the table, breaking off a piece of each other’s burdens and placing it on our tongues to absorb.
We began by reading a liturgy, written by one of our own, and the lament began. We called out injustices, acts of violence, and the names of those who had died too soon, too many at the hands of those abusing their power. We read the words loudly, even as our voices shook with tears, as a protest that it wasn’t right, it still isn’t right, and God, please come make it right.
Then we took turns leading the group, reciting poems, singing hymns, praying. Our lament filled the room, spilling beyond the walls and echoing into creation. In crying out together, the rage and anguish that was coiled tight inside me began to unravel and flow freely out. I could let down my strength and crumble — not from the weight and tension I was holding but because I didn’t have to hold it by myself, within myself, anymore. I could be weak. I could be held. I could exhale.
Lamenting was our way of declaring, “We haven’t given up hope yet. This is how we hope. This is how we keep going. And we will keep going.”
Without lament to give us breath again, we can drown in despair, overwhelmed by the brokenness we experience in and around us, anguish stuck in the depths of our being. And when we don’t know how to release it, when we can’t find our way through our grief, we need each other to lead the way — to offer us words when we don’t have any, to give us space and presence, to cry first so we can follow with our own tears.
The psalmists understood this and wrote,
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
Psalm 130:1-2 (NIV)
And in Psalm 37, David wrote,
Hope in the Lord
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.
Psalm 37:34 (NIV)
Today, we lament for the wickedness and evil that thrive and for the healing and justice that is yet to come. We beat our chests and cry aloud, and in this we hope: One day, the wicked will be gone, justice will prevail, and we will lament no more.
Perhaps nowhere in Scripture do we get as full a picture of the heights and depths of the human experience as in the Psalms. The outpourings of emotion never shy away from the darkest moments of life, and yet they also point toward the light — toward the God in whom we place our hope.
Inspired by Psalm 37, Voices of Lament: Reflections on Brokenness and Hope in a World Longing for Justice is a powerful collection of reflections from Christian women of color on themes of injustice, heartache, and deep suffering. Their essays, prayers, poems, and liturgies lay bare the experiences of the oppressed even as they draw us into deeper intimacy with God and a fuller understanding of each other.
Get your copy today (and pick up a copy for a friend as well). . . and leave a comment below for a chance to WIN one of 5 copies*!
Then join Becky Keife for a conversation with author and #VoicesofLament contributor Grace P. Cho, tomorrow on Facebook and Instagram! We’ll replay their conversation on the (in)courage podcast this weekend too. Don’t miss it!
How powerful. I feel that oftentimes the grief can indeed feel insurmountable as we navigate the injustices of this life while hoping for the peace that comes with the next. Certainly lamentation is necessary yet it should move us to prayerfully bold action as agents of change in this world.
At times it feels like a heavy weight on my chest. Your words were so helpful. It is so hard to see how the people of this world treat each other. It has taken me a long time to finally understand and take comfort in the Psalms.
Krista C. says
This so accurately described how I have been feeling. I love the reminder from Psalms. And that lament is how we hope. Powerful and so encouraging.
This book feels so timely. Looking forward to getting a copy.
This sounds like a powerful read! It’s on my list.
Ruth Mills says
For some unknown reason I thought the definition of lament was an unhealthy wallowing in grief. I am so thankful to have learned that is not the case! Lament a grieving with an element of hope toward the future & a call to God to give action to our sorrow! Only in Him can we mourn with hope! Thank You Jesus! And thank you Grace for these beautiful words! Blessings!
This is so powerful Grace. To vulnerable and lament. So much injustice going on all around us. So good to cry out to the Lord with a community of believers, lamenting to the Lord with each other for each other… and God He hears our cries, He is crying along with us. He did NOT intend for any of this for any of us for any of His children. He asks us to hold on and hold on to Him for soon He will come. Victory is His and is ours in Him. I can’t wait to read all the Laments and the healing power it will bring for me, others and all in and through HIM!! Thank you for writing this book! praying for all who read to be healed in the name of Jesus!
Brenda M. Russell says
Sometimes I feel like if I start saying all of what is shut up inside my thoughts, it will be too much for others to listen to and respond.
Although our Society has definitely changed during the last couple of decades, not one political measure or religious group is to blame. We all take part in change and life, no matter how small a part we play.
One day I imagine waking up smiling because my dreams the night before were not bizarre or upsetting or so questionable. But they were peaceful dreams with pleasant outcomes and I remember the dreams with a smile.
Then my day is quiet and I praise the Lord because He is my only true source of life, contentment and joy. What a beautiful way to start one’s day. I am still in reality because my phone rings and then my errands start for the day. My mother needs her groceries and my spouse needs me to run an errand for him too.
Being a daughter, wife, friend, mother and a God-fearing woman takes much prayer. Smile.
Yes, I should ask for help more often but I have been slow to learn that. I am a good doctor but a poor patient.
It’s alright to be who I truly am without apology. Thanks be to God for liberty in His Grace to grow into the person God wants me to become.
Deborah Freesen says
For so many reasons your message this morning touched me. I have the tools in the Psalms to help me calm my soul.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Grace this is so well said. Thank you for it. There is world hurting out there that needs Jesus because of all the pain hurt lives lost for no reason. When you put on the news you see something that touches you heart as saved person. You could see why God that should never have happened. No matter what it is. We have to remember it was not God’s doing only Man’s doing on to man. When I see or hear something one the news or were I hear it. I go into prayer especially if it affects a family or it to do with things like Afghanistan or Ukraine. As all touches my heart. I pray also for the families hurt and that if not saved they will see their needs to get saved hand their hurt over to Jesus. Plus I pray for the people that caused the hurt. Or to do with a person or child that has died far to young because of illness and their families. To God to make the people see life and all these things in our world are temporary even life itself. No one knows what the day is going to bring we could be here one minute and gone the next or injured because of people who do wrong. We as God’s people still have to love and pray for those that do wrong. One thing a few years before Covid that really stuck me. I was at Church my Salvation Army Officer was speaking on forgiveness. He showed at video of a true story. One family had lost a love one for no reason because of another person. Just in the wrong place the person that was killed. The family were at the court to see the person who did the killing. This really spoke to. They were Saved as you would know by what the Family said that day at court hearing. We will never get them back this side of earth. But we forgive for what you did. You to the person that had done wrong by killing our loved one. That humbled me. To say most of us saved could we do the same? If that happened to us. I prayed that would speak to person who done the wrong. To know the wrong they had done that the family had forgiven the person for the wrong they did. I prayed the person that did the wrong would change their lives around and find Jesus. As it says in the Bible we have to forgive no matter what. As Christ forgive us. As it says in Ephesians 4 verse 32 “And be kind to one another Tenderheart forgiving one another even as God in Christ forgave you” how true that is. But how many of us if anything like that family in the court room that forgave the person who rob the family of their love one. Could do the same? I probably find it hard. But I know with God’s help yes I could do it. Yes it would be hard. If we did if it was us. God would give us a true peace like never before. But we never forget what happened. No matter what goes on in our lives. God will give us hope to be able to pray and hand it over to him and God will give us strength to cope with what ever we go through. I say Amen to that Dawn Ferguson-Little xx
Anna Gibson says
I love: “Lamenting was our way of declaring, “We haven’t given up hope yet. This is how we hope.” Grace, I am envious to imagine a group of women sharing one another’s burdens and lamenting together as you describe here. But only envious in the healthy way… I’m glad such authentic fellowship is happening! Lament truly is a powerful way to keep going in faith when life feels overwhelming. I have found much solace in the words of David. God receives all my messy emotions and changes my heart when I come to Him. Sometimes “fellowship” seems too hard for introverts like me when life is hurting. But what you describe is beautiful.
Joan Moore says
Oh hasten the day when we lament no more!!! Excellent word today and hope for the future.
This is so beautiful! As 2020 was moving into 2021 I also was moved to lament – I didn’t really know what it meant, but as I’ve studied it more, I’ve seen the beauty and hope that it brings. Thank you for sharing your experiences and what you’ve learned. I look forward to reading this book and learning how God moves through lament.
I used to think lament was just complaining until I was shown that in the Psalms and some of the prophets lament was always followed by praise of God for all he has done and will do. Now I see that releasing it especially in a safe community could be a blessing and draw me closer to God. Thank you
Debbie Moser says
Timely, powerful words.
Sometimes it is too hard to take in all the world coming at us. I try to take a break from the news and scrolling online to focus on the good around me, but then it seems our enemy prowling around decides that’s the perfect time to attack. Yet I know my cries and pleas are carried to the Lord and he sustains me.
Janet Williams says
Amen \0/ I am so grateful for the women who have walked before me and beside me. They have shown me. Taught me. Reminded me to listen. Wiped tears. Pointed out my strengths and gifts, and yes we’ve “quietly squeezed each others arms”
Thank you for this beautiful and honest message
Many Blessings to our
We need to keep on keeping on Praying & Loving!
God tells us to. Is this Easy? No
But that is what we have to do.
Thank You for such a good writings!
Deanna Anderson says
I have felt this way a lot with the world events happening. I’m ordering this book for myself and a copy for a Christmas gift. Thank you for giving us hope!
Rachael W. says
Powerful piece by Grace P.Cho! What a reminder that we are not alone. Our collective grief can also be collective lament and collective HOPE. I’m grateful that God didn’t leave us to do this life alone here on Earth. Thank you for the reminder Grace to walk through my grief with others.
Lisa Wilt says
Today is a hard balance between lamenting with hope and focusing on what is good, true, right, noble…
Marie Chan says
Your words gave voice to how I’ve been feeling. Thank you Grace for sharing your experience of collective lament in community. We can find hope and healing when we carry each other’s burdens and cry out to God together. I am interested in reading more diverse perspectives represented in Voices of Lament and learning more about this topic.
Wendy R. says
Amazing! This would make an awesome read & or pay it forward. Thank you – I am sure many of us can relate.
Kamille Mora says
I am so moved by these words. The holding. Holding my breath, I know it well. The exhale hurts. My next breath is held. Goodness I needed someone to pen these words. My experience in so many ways. Thank you.
Yes; there’s a lot of “Christians should only ever turn a happy face to the world!” stuff out there, but there are things that we know from the Bible that God is not happy about and that we shouldn’t just try to sweep under the rug of pretending everything is fine. The people who kept pretending they were fine were not the people Jesus reached during ministry; the people longing for the Messiah knew that things were Not Okay *but* that God would someday deal with the mess.
Marlene Gander says
It is often difficult to remember that in our pain- hope is what gets us through. From that hope comes strength, grace, wisdom. We use those to minister to others going through the same thing. And what I’ve often found is that through this sharing- we’ve either formed or deepened the bonds of sisterhood. Thank you Lord for the wisdom that you give and for your promise to never leave us. It is with THAT- we can move forward.
Marilyn Odom says
I feel as if I needed to be in that group. We pack and pack and pack, yet seldom release. At some point, there is no longer room to pack any more.
Shannon Stokes says
I am not a woman of color but my heart is heavy for my sisters of color and what they experience. Your words resonate with my soul and I desire to share that burden, stand by my sisters’ side, and do my part by bringing change. I am thankful and we do share the only Hope of this world…Jesus!
fingers crossed – hope i win
Beth Williams says
Lament means a passionate expression of grief & sorrow. These past 2+ years have given many reasons to lament. There has so much internal turmoil in our country plus the added stress of a pandemic. It can all be to much. I understand where you are coming from as I worked as clerical in Covid units. We saw death daily-be it young or old. Now we are trying to breath & piece our lives back together. We are talking about it & not holding it in anymore. Thank you for a much needed book.