The Lost Practice of Biblical Lament: Dr. Joan Davis and Dr. Jordan Davis

Dr. Joan Davis and Dr. Jordan Davis

"Lament helps us rewrite the narrative. It gives us a framework for how to express the pain we are going through while also experiencing the hope that can only be given to us by a loving God." (Dr. Jordan Davis)

Lament is a minor key language: beautiful, but different from the melodic, upbeat sounds we may be used to. In a recent Friday Symposium on campus, two DBU Faculty members – Dr. Joan Davis, Professor of Counseling and Psychology, and Dr. Jordan Davis, Assistant Professor of Counseling – led a discussion focused on the process and importance of biblical lament.

Together, they walked through five key steps to practice biblical lament using Psalm 13 as a template. By choosing to turn to God, lifting our complaints to Him, asking questions, shifting our mindset to trust in Him, and giving thanks for all He has done, we are able to process our grief and lament in a healthy way that puts us on the path to healing.

    "Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pain. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world." (C.S. Lewis)

    Lament negates silence. It is far better to be openly communicative with the Lord about our pain through prayer than to be silent and cut off our communication with God. It is easy to praise God when our lives are going well, but it is when we walk through the valleys that we must actively choose to turn to our Savior.

    "It is through lament that we vocalize our pain," said Dr. Joan Davis. Throughout the Psalms, we see David cry out to the Lord, crushed by his circumstances, his relationships, and his own sin. The Lord is faithful to bend a listening ear to David every time. In Ecclesiastes, we learn that "the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure" (Eccl. 7:4). The man who sweeps his troubles under the rug and naively enjoys the empty fulfillment offered by the world is a fool. He who cries out to God in his doubts, his anguish, his pain, is wise.

    "We have been pulled into the belief at Church that it is not 'come as you are,' but 'come as you're supposed to be.' And so we get trapped in this belief that if we show any weakness, our lament may show a lack of faith, and we label that as sinful," said Dr. Jordan Davis. "We are to engage with God about our grief, our anger, our sadness, and our doubt, but we have mislabeled those things as sins."

    We serve a Father that wants to hear His children's questions and doubts. "God can handle our messy thoughts and questions; they are no surprise to Him," said Dr. Joan Davis. "So have faith to ask hard questions."

    "Yet in our pain, we remember who Christ is and what He has done; this is the pivot," said Dr. Joan Davis. "This is when we choose to trust."

    Unlike feelings of doubt, uncertainty, anger, and sadness, trust is not a feeling. Trust is a choice. Choosing to trust in the Lord, even in our hardest trials, isn't always easy. Like all spiritual disciplines, lament is a learned behavior; it takes great faith to lift up a prayer of lament, trusting that God will listen. But there is no one more worth trusting than He who stepped down from Heaven to save us, the Man of Sorrows (Isaiah 53:3), the One who can empathize with each and every one of our sufferings.

    When we remember who God is and all He has done for us, the pains of this world begin to grow dim. While the heartache may still linger, we find hope in the promises mentioned all throughout Scripture. We give thanks because we don't have to go through this life alone! "We find healing through community and allowing others to lament with us," Dr. Jordan Davis said.

"God is good, life is hard," said Dr. Joan Davis. But developing a fluency in the language of loss puts us into the habit of openly expressing our feelings with our Savior.

In closing, Dr. Joan Davis left the symposium with this: "We can rest knowing that our mourning, our crying, our pain will one day pass away. We are not alone in our suffering. We do not lament to a God who is detached from our pain. Suffering does not have the final word. As it is told to us in Romans, 'I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us,' (Romans 8:18). Lament is not forever."

Written by Emmalie Ellis

Emmalie Ellis writes for the University Communications department at Dallas Baptist University.