The lingua franca of most of the communities I’ve been part of is extremely one-dimensional. It can be summed up as the dialect of praise, and forces people into its fake tentacles. Now don’t misunderstand me, there certainly is a place for praise in communities but in my experience it dominates our God-language. Take for instance the phrase “praise-and-worship”, used in sentences like: “I love that church’s praise and worship”. Why isn’t it called a praise and lament worship?

One of my dear friends in Colorado suffers from chronic pain. Every day of his life is a battle against his over-sensitive nerve endings. When I met him he shared with me how difficult praise and worship was at his community. The worship leader would start every service shouting over his Madonna microphone – “Aren’t you feeling good?” and then just assuming everyone is as hyped as he is continue with praise. My friend mused how he almost always mumbled “I feel like crap”. Why is it that we naturally want to censor God-speech that is not feel-good or awesome or amazing? It may be that our overemphasis on praise betrays our deep doubt that we haven’t figured God out. Our silence may actually be a way to keep the ever nagging doubts at bay. One of my professors in seminary used to tell that a certain preacher, known for his shouting style, had noted in the margins of his sermon ‘weak point, shout like hell’.

Can it be that our over-emphasis on praise; is a symptom of feeling extremely uncomfortable when the God that we have all figured out doesn’t act according to our will?

Thankfully it doesn’t have to be that way and as communities of faith we have to learn the language of lament. No better source exists than the book of Psalms. Theologians have shown us that two thirds of the praise and worship in this text is actually lament. Provocative phrases are found in this book like: “Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?” Psalm 44

On Sunday we actually sang this lament out loud. Why? Because it allows our community to enter into the journeys of both joy and sadness. Last week our American friends’ son was diagnosed with diabetes. Why? One of our family members’ mother was hijacked – the assailants chew her wedding ring from her finger and now she’s on ARV drugs. Why God? One of our close family members is crawling through a dark stretch of depression. Why!?

Before you want to answer the why (and good luck with that) consider how good it would be to actually use all of the abovementioned situations as vehicles towards a conversation with God instead of a cranial analysis about God. That is why I think we need to develop the language of lament.