As I ponder how to give grad students both the opportunity and the means to lament well, I am struck by why it matters so much. I do not doubt that lamenting well is important for all Christians. At the same time, I think it matters even more for those connected to the university.
The reason I believe it matters so much is because it’s a way of being honest with things that cause us pain. Lamenting includes acknowledging the pain, sadness, rejection, and more. Some of that includes recognizing sin, including one’s own. At the same time that the struggle is named, it is also given to (dumped on?) God. It is not allowed to foster deep inside oneself, nor is it allowed to become that which defines who we are. Instead, lamenting includes choosing something else: trust, whether that be in the form of praise or remembrance of earlier care, or whether that be simply inviting God into the darkness.
As I think of those grad students being pushed to their limits, recognizing the possibility and likelihood of failing alongside the challenges of having their identity change to something other than primarily a student, for them lamenting provides a means of acknowledge the challenges, as well as picking up the pieces, and moving on with God.
As I think of undergraduates who have been sheltered most of their lives, carefully protected by loving and well-meaning parents, for them lamenting provides honesty and a safe haven when things go wrong, a means of holding on to their faith and relating to God and Christianity in a way which might feel unknown but speaks to them in the midst of their troubles.
As I think of those near the university deeply hurt by other’s successes and the happiness of smart and beautiful people, I wonder if lament might not be a way to empty some of the bitterness and anger, so that more tragedies like that of the recent rampage in California and that of a month ago in Calgary might be averted.
I really believe that lamenting is a gift that we as Christians receive and ought to pass on to those searching for God. As Christianity is not really known for its honest questioning and anger, we in the church, especially those of us working at the university, would do well to learn how to do lament better. After all, if we cannot be honest with ourselves and God, how can we speak to a culture that is also struggling with how to question honestly and do anger well?