Posted by: Tom,

James1:2-4 tells us to, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

I imagine that this is why we Christians have taught that when we face trials we should endure them in silence and be patient. But, though James is encouraging those who are facing great hardship, is he really saying that it is wrong to lament and ask "why" questions?

Lauren Winner, in a book review of Ronald Rittger's The Reformation of Suffering, spends a paragraph dealing with how the tradition of lament has been lost. Winner explains that Rittger feels that this loss in the (very) long run might even undermine the plausibility of the Christian faith.

Several years ago when scrutinizing hymns for sound theology was at its peak I had a teacher say that "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior" was not theologically sound. Would the Savior really pass by one who calls on Him in a time of need? I suggested that it was simply a reflection of a persons lament but was told that we really didn't want to be singing that in church.

The Psalms are filled with lament. (Most do end with a statement of God's soveriegnty.) It seems to be the natural response to suffering and the fact that there is so much of it in scripture it seems that it is a legitimate way to express suffering.

Obviously, lament needs to me handled with care. It shouldn't be allowed to spiral down into the depths of despair. The recognition of God's sovereignty is important and the the reminder from James is also important. But, though I am not sure about Rittger's concern about the undermining of the faith, I wonder if it isn't a mental health issue. By not giving space for lament are we making it more likely that suffering will lead to ongoing mental health problems?


I'm Tom. I have a wonderful wife, 4 kids, a dog, and a cat. What more could a guy want.

@Tue 24 Feb, 2009 20:16Green Banner: 24 February, 2009Green Banner Vector Graphic

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