Faith in Lament

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.” – Psalm 91:14-16 (NIV)

I can’t help but recall the funeral I attended a few days ago.

Nathan had a smile that brought light into every space. With his whole life ahead of him, Lil’ Nate, as he was known, was found in Lake Michigan with no clear answers as to how he got there.

The ministers that led the service shared how much Lil’ Nate loved Jesus. They encouraged the family and those present not to grieve “too long” because Lil’ Nate was “in the place he wanted most to be.”

It took everything in me to make space for grace and to wonder if perhaps the family found comfort in these words. These ministers knew Lil’ Nate and his family. Surely they are speaking from a place of knowing, right? This was my hope.

But as I wondered and hoped, I was also angry.

If, like the psalmist, we are to invite people to trust in God’s protection, we should also make sure folx know that it is okay to cry out in pain and despair when this protection is not evident or imminent. Hurting people need to know that lament is not the absence of faith. Lament is trust and love as it shows up in right relationship in order to withstand the sting and suffering life sometimes throws our way.

Almighty God, I am grateful that you are big enough to hold all our pain, our mess, and our rage, and that you do not need us to protect you. Please remind us to share this good news. Amen.

Marilyn Pagán-About the Author
Marilyn Pagán-Banks serves as Pastor of San Lucas UCC, Executive Director of A Just Harvest and Adjunct Professor at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.