Learning to Lament: Grieving in Community

There is much beauty in personal lament as we connect one-on-one with our Father. We need that intimate kind of lament. But God has designed the church as a family, so there is also great fruit in practicing lament in the context of community. Sometimes we are all facing the same loss or hardship, and grieving together strengthens the entire Body as we point one another to the Lord and collectively root ourselves in truth. The shared experience of honest, raw lament can bring healing and unity to the whole community. Difficulty has a tendency to lead us to turn inward and deal with the pain alone, so it takes intentional effort to see each other, engage, and walk through grief together. 

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

—Romans 12:15, ESV

The more common occurrence is for an individual, family or group within the Body to go through seasons of unique suffering. We may struggle to know what to say or how to help, since there’s usually not much we can actively do to change the situation. But lament praying can be a helpful tool to connect with those who are suffering, letting them know they are seen and loved. Through lament, we can enter into the pain of others—growing in understanding and empathy through listening, calling out to God on their behalf, and standing with them in solidarity. As members together of the same Body, what happens to one person impacts all of us. 

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 

—1 Corinthians 12:26, ESV

As we come close to the suffering and sit with them in the pain, a gift we can offer is to pray for them (and with them if they’re willing), crying out on their behalf when they feel too broken to put words together. And as we think about coming alongside those who are suffering to lament with and for them, we know that times will come when we are the ones who need to invite others into our pain and lean on them. 

Another type of lament that can be done in community is corporate repentance. This practice doesn’t seem to be very common in American churches today, but we see many examples in Scripture (such as Nehemiah 1:1-11 and 9; Daniel 9:3-19; Ezra 9:6-10:1). Whether it’s the whole church Body praying together, or the pastors leading, coming together to confess our common sin and turn toward repentance can be a powerful practice used by God to produce much fruit—in individual hearts and the church as a whole.

This work of walking through grief in community has to be rooted in love, empathy and humility. It’s a way that we reflect the incarnating work of Jesus, who took on flesh and entered into our broken world to bring redemption. As we learn to lament together, it can yield closer relationships, unity, and the whole Body being built up in Christ and pointed toward truth. Through listening to and understanding the trials of others as we come alongside them, lament also leads us to compassionate action (Deuteronomy 24:17-22; Hebrews 10:32-34; 2 Corinthians 8:1-5). 

How the Church Can Care for Those It Sends Out: Getting Started

Your church may be enthusiastic about sending people out on mission, but are you prepared to support them well?

In the New Testament we get to see some beautiful examples of how the church can minister to those who are sent out on mission. The church supported Paul with prayer, financial and material provisions, relationships and encouragement. Paul knew the church cared for him and he could ask for their help when it was needed. The church also welcomed him back and was eager to hear about all that God was doing.

The role of supporting those we send out is a task the church should take seriously, as both a responsibility and a gift. There are so many ways that a church can care for its sent ones. For those who are trying to figure out how to even get started, here are a couple key ideas for laying the foundation…

CARE — Choose two or three people to serve as advocates on a care team, with one team assigned to each family unit overseas. Each team would be responsible for checking in with their sent one regularly, encouraging them, and staying aware of how the church can meet their needs.

CONNECT — That same care team would function as the sent one’s representatives to the church so that they stay connected. In conjunction with the church leaders, the team can figure out the best way to regularly communicate the sent one’s prayer requests to the congregation. There are many other ways to connect, but establishing and maintaining this work of prayer is vital.

Those who are sent out to serve overseas can feel forgotten by their home church. They face many unique struggles, and often without a strong community of local believers supporting them. With the intentional love and care of the sending church, they can be spiritually and emotionally healthier, and able to be more effective in their work.

Whether your church is preparing to send out its first overseas workers, or you’re looking to improve your support of existing workers, it’s important to think well about how to start. Focus on care and connection, then grow from there.

The Church is a Family

What image comes to mind when you hear the word “church”? Do you primarily think of a building, a worship service, a pastor? Regardless of some popular connotations of the word, the church is actually a group of people…followers of Christ who gather to study God’s Word, worship the Lord, serve others, and share the gospel. Jesus created the church, his Body, and he designed it to be a family. There are so many ways that this family dynamic comes into play, but I’ll just highlight two that I’ve been reminded of this week.

First, the church acts as a family by loving and supporting one another. We’re called to give of ourselves — our finances, time, energy, resources, and emotional support. Maybe this looks like bringing dinner to someone who has been ill or is going through a big transition, or buying groceries for a friend who’s struggling to make ends meet. It could mean opening your home to someone who needs a place to stay for a while, or helping a friend move. Whatever it is, we have the opportunity to lay down our own desires and priorities to show love and kindness to our family. So many people have been that blessing to me in different times in my life. There’s something so sweet about knowing that you’ll never be alone, homeless, or without help because you’re surrounded by a family of brothers and sisters in Christ who love you because they’re loved by God.

We’re not created to live in isolation, and we certainly will not grow in sanctification without being in community. A necessary aspect of loving and supporting one another as a family is that we must openly share our lives. Your family can’t minister to you if they don’t know your needs and struggles. Just as we rejoice together, we also grieve and walk through difficulty together. We must be transparent and humble by allowing others to see the ups and downs of our life, and we should also be aware and involved in the lives of others so that we can be available to offer help and comfort, and to meet needs as they arise.

Another way the church functions as a family is to offer accountability. In becoming a part of the church, we are committing to hold others accountable and to invite them to speak into our lives. It’s a two-way relationship. We need each other to fight sin that is so easy to ignore or give into. We also have the opportunity to help each other make decisions and discern situations wisely. As Proverbs 11:14 says, “in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Our community can offer great insight that we may have missed or purposefully ignored. We are together growing as disciples and being conformed to the character of Christ. It is a great gift that our Father has given us to be able to walk together and keep one another from falling. It breaks my heart when members of the family isolate themselves, forging their own path and not allowing their brothers and sisters in Christ to speak into their life. God was very purposeful in the way He designed the church…let’s not throw away this gift He’s given us.

I am so very thankful for the Body of Christ. I’ve been so blessed by this family, both locally and globally. As I give thanks for this sweet gift, I’m reminded to love my church family well — speaking truth boldly, giving generously, and serving wholeheartedly.