This post was originally posted on The Well
I love praise — it fits my culture. As a Southern woman, I’ve been told not to “air my dirty laundry on the line,” and I am asked to be “nice” and to avoid making things messy. Because of that pull to create a happy community, I’ve leaned into praise. I love the order and simplicity of singing praise to the Lord.
But coming from a culture that (over)values praise, I get stuck when I hit pain and injustice. In college and the years after, I was able to push aside the pain, but with the murder of Trayvon Martin and the shootings of the unarmed black men that came after, my world broke and I did not know how to engage the Lord. My prayers of praise felt empty and disingenuous.
And I turned to lament.
I lamented my own history — a history of people who looked like me enslaving others, a history of my home state fighting for segregation, and my personal history of ignorant and racist comments. And I connected with the pain God felt. As I cried out in that pain, my heart grew in empathy and conviction.
Soong-Chan Rah says that “lament recognizes the struggles of life and cries out for justice against existing injustices.” My own lament connected me with God’s call for justice and gave me a chance to understand my pain. Rah continues: “To only have a theology of celebration at the cost of the theology of suffering is incomplete. The intersection of the threads provides the opportunity to engage in the fullness of the gospel message. Lament and praise must go hand in hand.” My tears showed me a God who was still worthy of my praise in troubled times.
Crying out to the Lord showed me God’s goodness because I could see that he cared about his people’s pain. As my tears began to show me a fuller picture of God, my heart began to praise him with renewed joy and hope. My pain wasn’t erased but was met with God’s own tears, and I saw a God who was big enough to carry my pain and good enough to fight injustice.
Read the rest of the blog post at The Well.