I’m sure many of us would call 2020 an absolute dud- our world is going through a pandemic that has weakened many countries’ economies, and many underlying injustices and flaws in our society have been uncovered throughout the year. It has been extremely difficult for many of us to find anything to be optimistic about, and we know that life as we know it is not quite going to be the same again. One also can’t help but also wonder: where has God been in all of this?
The simple answer is: He’s here and always has been. He’s right by our sides as we try to make sense of all that’s happening around us. But I’m quite sure, dear reader, that your next question would be: “If you say God is right by my side, then why haven’t I felt His presence this year? I’ve been praying but it feels like He’s ignoring me or nothing is happening – what do I do now?
If you have or currently have these questions in your mind and heart -where life right now feels quite overwhelming, and nothing makes sense, please know that your questioning is valid and even has a name. Dear reader, you have been lamenting. A lamentation is also a form of prayer, often referred to as a prayer for help that comes from a place of deep suffering and pain. The Bible has many examples of laments: the book of Lamentations openly expresses the Jews’ feelings of sorrow after Jerusalem was destroyed at the hands of the Babylonians – “Look at me, Lord,” the city cries; “see me in my misery.” (Lam 1:11). Roughly one-third of the Psalms are laments, the Book of Job has frequent laments, and prophets like Habakkuk and Jeremiah have uttered cries to the Lord such as, “Why do I keep suffering? Why are my wounds incurable? Why won’t they heal?” (Jer 15:18)
Lamenting to the Lord does not mean that your faith is diminishing or that something is wrong with you or your faith. In fact, the opposite is true. In addition to the above examples, I almost instantly remember Bartimaeus’ cry (which has been a regular prayer of mine) “Jesus! Son of David! Take pity on me!” (Mk 10:47). Jesus’ agony in the garden is another example (and a great meditation too). We remember when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” while on the cross. Many great saints too have experienced moments where they felt “blue ticked” by God – Mother Teresa experienced “such terrible darkness” in her soul throughout her life, and St. Paul shared with the Corinthians that he felt “often troubled, sometimes in doubt” (2 Cor 4:8).
Act of Faith
From the above examples, we learn that a lamentation is an act of faith where we actively and fully acknowledge the pain we experience or have experienced. We take all the emotions and confusing questions we carry in our hearts and minds and express them openly to the Lord. And no, He will not think any less of you for doing so. If anything, your time of suffering, whether physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or all of the above, your “darkness,” is a mysterious link that unites you to Jesus and deepens your relationship with Him. Mother Teresa described suffering with the Lord (lamenting) as follows:
“…if you look at the cross, he [Jesus] has got his head bending down – he wants to kiss you – and he has both hands open wide – he wants to embrace you. He has his heart opened wide to receive you… when you feel miserable inside, look at the cross… pain, suffering, humiliation – this is the kiss of Jesus… Suffering is a gift from God. It is between you and Jesus alone.”
Additionally, through lamenting, we learn to trust in the Lord more by giving up our suffering to Him in prayer. In turn, this helps us become better responders to the Lord at all times, not just when things are going great, and we want to praise. I encourage you to lament before the Lord during Holy Hour, physically or virtually. You may reflect and meditate on the examples mentioned above of lamentations from the Bible and seek spiritual direction as well. The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary are helpful too, especially because you will have one more person to journey, meditate, and lament with – the Queen of Heaven, Mother Mary! I encourage you to ask for her and St. Joseph’s intercession as well. Dear reader, do not be afraid to cry out to the one who loves you. He is listening to you and is quietly carrying and guiding you and me out of the dark tunnel towards His light.