This week brings Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lent season. I’ve learned (and am still learning) most of what I know about Lent as an adult.
One word I’ve come to associate with Lent is “lament” because both Lent and lamenting bring into sharp focus the reality of suffering. And this year, lament seems to be a relevant word as we head toward the 1-year “anniversary” of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. A full year of lockdowns and quarantines and masks and social-distancing. A full year of canceled plans, virtual church, and sickness. And now we’re trying to balance lamenting the pandemic while still living through it. At least for now, the pandemic is still going strong, and we’ll probably be having virtual church for Easter again.
As we dive headlong into Jesus’ journey of suffering to the cross through Lent, let’s take time to lament. To choose to step all the way into our feelings and thoughts, even the hard ones, so that we can bring them before God and before others in repentance and reconciliation. To wrestle with the grief caused by this situation and allow our hearts to mourn what (and who) has been lost. To recognize our human sinfulness and need for a Savior so that we can more fully rest in God’s grace. To remember that we are not alone in our sufferings and hardships, because “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV).
Lamenting is not easy or fun or pretty. Lamenting is our soul’s ugly cry as we wrestle with God’s promises in contrast to our current realities. In the Psalms, we see many examples of laments (check out Psalm 13, Psalm 41, and Psalm 130 as a starting place). But what I love about these Biblical examples of lament is that while the Psalmist candidly speaks out his raw sorrow, he is moved toward a hopeful joy as he remembers God’s faithfulness.
Our lamenting during Lent isn’t just about maintaining a gloomy countenance for 6 weeks. The darkness of L(am)ent allows for a brighter celebration in contrast as we look toward the hope that comes with Easter Sunday. So let’s lament, but let’s also celebrate.
Let’s celebrate the creativity God inspired in the church through this season. Let’s celebrate the way God is encouraging and equipping parents to lead their families in spiritual development as the church moved home. Let’s celebrate the fact that Jesus, “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8, NIV).
P.S. Here’s a free activity from our Psalms 5-Week Study for Kids resource to help kids (and adults) draw out their own Psalm of lament. And if you’re looking for other resources to help families experience the season of Lent, find them here.