Study Guide: Lamenting A to Z

Sunday May 24, 2020 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

In this sermon, Greg shares about the importance of lament during a time of loss and liminality. Building upon the ideas introduced by David last week, he expands on the topic and shares about his own experiences and the emotions he's been wrestling with.

Extended Summary:

The Psalmist in the focus scripture has confident hope he’ll see the goodness of God in the land of the living, which presupposes that he’s not seeing it at the present time. He’s saying that hope makes you strong and courageous enough to wait. In times when the goodness of God is not apparent, it takes strength and courage to wait. Greg shares how this is not something that he has ever been very good at.

In March when our lives radically changed because of the pandemic, Greg spoke about gratitude – that giving thanks is the key to happiness. While Greg was reflecting on the sermon shared by David last week, he began to rethink what he is experiencing during this time, and in his life as a whole. This has meant that he, and we, have to learn to lament.

Greg titled this message Lamenting A to Z, referring to the passage from Lamentations where the author writes with an acrostic so that the reader is forced to go all the way down through the process of lamenting, and not just skip over the pain in order to make themself feel better.

“Liminality” describes our current situation: we are living in an in-between space where we’ve moved beyond the old and familiar, yet the new has not developed. It is a time where we feel the loss of the old but we don’t know what is going to replace it. It is a unique space because it is a time when we are most open to the work of the Spirit in our lives. The prayer that expresses the pain and confusion of living in an in-between time, a liminal time, is called lament. It is an honest expression of pain, confusion, and fear of being “in-between.”

We don’t like being in-between, unsure and off balance. We prefer to be in control. We’re tempted to minimize or totally ignore our need to lament. This is especially tempting for Christians because we’re taught that with Jesus, we can have a joy that’s unspeakable and full of glory, and that isn’t affected by the ups and downs of life. In that light, spending time reflecting on feelings of loss and pain, or confusion and doubt can seem unspiritual.

Greg shared how he has been experiencing liminality and how the practice of lament has been something that he has avoided, and how he is not embracing it.

The only way to grow through your pain – to let God do all he wants while you’re in a liminal space – is to STOP, GRIEVE, and WAIT. If we don’t give ourselves space to feel our pain and grieve, we limit the good that God can bring out of our pain. Lamenting “A to Z” is crucial to our ongoing spiritual health.

We are called to live in hope: in the confident assurance that God’s love wins in the end, and that when God’s Kingdom finally comes in fullness, our suffering will have been more than worth it. But living in hope doesn’t mean we should gloss over the ugly stuff that life dishes our way. Living in hope just means we have the assurance that the pain we feel doesn’t have the last word. In fact, it means that we have the assurance that God can even use our pain to move us in the direction of our hope.

Reflection Questions: