There’s a video going around Facebook of a little girl’s bitter lament.
Through her tears she’s expressing her very real grief over everything the coronavirus pandemic has taken away from her life that has ever given her joy -- the ice cream man doesn’t come down her street anymore and now she can’t have her favorite ice cream, the one with the gumballs in it!
“They shut down McDonald’s, which is my favorite restaurant,” she sobs.
Her father gently tells her, “The drive-through is still open,” but she’s inconsolable.
“It’s just really frustrating because it’s boring waiting so long for food and now you can’t even go to the playground until you get your food...it’s not fair!” she cries.
As her parents let her express her bitter grief over the condition of her collapsed world, they don’t tell her to cheer up or get over it. They just let her lament.
After about three minutes, the mom tells her it won’t last forever. The girl says, “I know,” takes a breath and asks, “Can I play on my iPad tomorrow?” And then she smiles.
I love that.
This week I’ve been studying about lamenting, which, I’ve learned, is different from whining or even complaining.
Grief, sorrow, loss or regret are the underlying emotions and lament is their expression.
Lamenting one’s pain acknowledges its reality, and contrary to some who think Christians shouldn’t give credence to negative emotions, people of faith can voice their bitter sorrows and still have faith.
The Bible is filled with people’s laments -- there’s an entire Old Testament book called Lamentations, one long pouring out of sorrow on behalf of the Israelites because of their captivity by the Babylonians.
One commentator, Jacksonville, Florida, pastor Chuck Colson, said lament doesn’t stifle our doubts, fears or disappointments.
“It also doesn’t leave us in despair,” he said. “Lament takes us to God, who in his mercy will fix all the chaos on one final day, stooping to wipe the tears from our eyes.”
Lament doesn’t use pretty words. True lament is raw, sometimes bitter and angry. It’s how we really feel.
As I see it, lamenting in faith is not a contradiction but actually an expression of faith as I direct my laments toward God.
Perhaps it’s the purest form of prayer that we hurl at God, and I think God likes that when it comes from one of his children. Perhaps lament is the language of a child toward a parent she knows will not cast her away, reserved for someone she trusts.
In the book of Lamentations, the writer goes on for several chapters, bitter and without hope. And then in chapter three he does an about face and writes, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).
The times we live in are not good, but there is still good in them. God is with us. He hears our cries.
The drive-through at McDonald’s is still open.
God’s mercies are still new every morning, and he is making all things new.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing” and “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.