Virtually all cultures have found audible expressions for their suffering and grief.Whether with cries, sobs, weeping or moaning, humans usually give verbal expression to their laments. There is a desire to give vent to the loss of someone we truly love or to the impairment that causes the loss of a valued ability. Others can find no words, retreating into solitude and silence. Some cultures hire professional mourners to express the angst of their pain.
The stone work above depicts Egyptian women lamenting. Such songs, dating back to 4000 BC, have been formalized in poetic and musical expressions in classics such as the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Bible has psalms of lament as well as the book of Lamentations. So when you suffer, how do you express it?The Lord gave me a mother who taught me the tune and words to “Jesus Loves Me” so thoroughly that I, then as a four-year-old patient, can now still remember singing it in full voice as I helped nurses fold diapers for the infants hospitalized with polio. My mom hummed frequently and had memorized many hymns and gospel songs. These were the melodies and lyrics of my first years.At some point later in my life, I came to appreciate the theology of that children’s song. The basis of Jesus’ love rested in the infallible scriptures; He was strong and I was weak. Yet He wanted me to belong to Him. Incredible! And how the truths of that simple song grounded me – then and now. The music and writing that we choose to surround ourselves with when we suffer or grieve is not neutral. Those powerful expressions will either draw us to God’s deeper truth or else they can permit – dare I say encourage – us to stagnate or look to lesser gods or self for comfort.At 14, during a one-year hospital stay for spinal surgery, I would memorize 200 verses of scripture. In repeating the opening two verses of Psalm 121, I quickly realized that blaming fate or seeing help from some cosmic force held no strength when compared to the stronger truth about hope in suffering:”I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.”