Lamenting Through Worship
Every year, College Park Church hosts a special evening of worship called, IGNITE. During this night, we worship the Lord through multiple art forms and expressions, such as music, fine arts, spoken word, written word, prayers, poems, and much more. For IGNITE 2019, however, we are taking a different approach than a typical night of praise might. The focus is on lament.
Why? Because in this life, we go through many seasons. We journey through mountaintop experiences where God is so present in our lives that we feel his presence surrounding us like a warm blanket on a cold winter’s night. We also journey through the valleys, when life is hard, and God feels so distant that we question whether he is even there. Crying out to God in the midst of that pain is lament.
We see examples of lament throughout the book of Psalms—in fact, a third of the book of Psalms is comprised of what we call, “psalms of lament.” So, as part of our preparation for IGNITE, the College Park Worship Arts Team wanted to study these songs and to learn how to create songs that would speak the language of lament.
To do that, we took a group of songwriters on a writer’s retreat this past fall. During the weekend, we focused on the four elements of lament:
- Turn: usually directly to God, “Hear me O God”
- The Complaint: a description of the occurrences for which we are requesting assistance or rescue
- Ask: usually a very specific statement of what we long for God to do
- Trust: a statement showing belief that God will hear our prayers
We read lament psalms and identified these four elements within them. We then began to write our own laments—something you can only do once you put yourself in the right frame of mind and heart. I asked our writers to recall a specific moment in their lives when they were in crisis, maybe they experienced significant loss or maybe they had witnessed an injustice. This exercise provided the context we needed to begin creating songs of lament.
As I woke up that Saturday morning, I looked out my window at the sunrise and began to write a song of lament. What my eyes saw was not yet clear, blurred because the sun had yet to fully rise and fog covered the water. The tree line was in view, but it wasn’t light enough to see the beautiful fall colored deciduous trees. I knew that the image would be beautiful, but I had to wait for the light to reveal that beauty. As I did, I wrote this lament:
Oh God! I long to see you!
But the fog covers the water, obstructing my view of you
Darkness is everywhere, but the dawn is piercing through it
I’m struggling to see clearly, but know that light is just beyond the horizon
How long must I wait for clarity?
How long will you withhold the answers I seek?
As light enters in, I finally am able to see color
A glimmer of hope is in my view
Oh God, would you reveal the beauty that exists beyond the horizon?
Would you restore sight, reveal your light to my weary soul?
For I know that the darkness must flee as light takes over
Because darkness exists only as the absence of light
But light casts a shadow a reminder of dark’s eerie existence
How long must we wait for darkness to be obliterated, entirely taken over by light?
It lingers, it creeps, but one day it will cease
God’s promises are true. He promises a day when darkness will be gone, when not even a shadow will remain. But until that day, we journey.
Whether it’s on the mountaintop where we can see clearly or in the dark valley, we journey with hope, knowing that one day God’s light will overtake the darkness forever. He will right all wrongs; death, cancer, suffering, hatred, tears, and goodbyes will be no more. Until that day, we cry out, “How long? How long oh LORD” (Ps. 13:1)?