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How Does A Healthy Lament Actually Cause Healing And Joy?

Lament

I’ll never forget these words, “You can cry all you want.” This gift came from a dear friend right after Dave’s admission of his porn addiction. 

I didn’t know at that time that my deep-seated tears came from my soul’s need to express a healthy lament. 

What is lament? 

A lament can express sorrow, grief, or mourning often demonstratively. It might be to complain about something or to wail. You might sing a dirge. We see many examples of lamenting throughout the Bible. Lament can be over personal sin, failures, and the death of someone we love, or it could be more for a nation, as we saw on 9/11

When we sat with our friends that evening after Dave’s revelation, I sobbed my confusion and pain and lamented the sorrow and grief porn inflicted on my husband, my marriage, and me. I knew deep in my gut that life would never be the same. I felt the deep loss.

Lori Stanley Roeleveld, in her article “What Does Lament Mean in the Bible and Why Is It Important?” on crosswalk.com helps us understand why God created us to lament. “. . . Just as it’s vital for physical health for doctors to drain an infected wound, it’s also vital to our mental and spiritual health to release the pent-up stress that forms in times of loss.”

The gift of lament

During these times of heartbreaking grief, we need a way to express that grief. Depending on your culture, you might find it easier or harder to wail, to talk with a close friend, or even tell God how you really feel. 

Roeleveld states that God knows we need a healthy way to express this deep sorrow, otherwise we might become numb to the rest of life. We miss the joy God has for us. 

“God created us, knows us, and is willing to help us function according to our design. We live in a world marked by sin and death. To help us cope, He’s provided the gift of lament. We are wise to make use of this loving tool for passing through sorrow to joy.” 

Reading this statement, I felt stunned by her phrase, “the gift of lament.” I’d never thought of it that way. While I cried with these safe friends, I certainly didn’t see this lament as a gift. I still felt I needed to hold the worst of the pain inside because I knew I’d explode if I gave full vent. 

Not true. 

Through the help of my counselor, I learned how to lament in a way I could handle. I journaled my pain, a practice I still follow. That’s where I found the gift—in the expression of my sorrow, anxiety, and pain. Using this gift of lament tool does bring peace and comfort. 

How do you use this gift of a healthy lament? 

We have many examples of laments in the Bible from Moses to Jesus. In her most recent book, The Most Misunderstood Women of the Bible, Mary DeMuth relates the story of Naomi, the Grieved One. We find Naomi’s story intertwined with Ruth in the Book of Ruth. 

Here’s the cliff notes version of the story setup: 

Naomi and Elimilech, along with their boys, Mahlon and Kilion, left their hometown in Israel during a severe famine to go to Moab where there were more opportunities. The boys grow up, eventually marry women in the area, and settle down to a better life than they’d know. Elimilech dies, which deeply grieves Naomi. However, her boys surround her and continue to care for her. Then, suddenly, both boys die. Naomi, and her daughters-in-law are left to fend for themselves. 

One day, Naomi decides to go back home to Israel. At least there she has some other relatives. To add to her grief, she encourages her daughters-in-law to go back to their families as she has nothing to help them. Naomi feels the weight of her grief and expresses her pain by changing her name to Mara (bitterness).

Like you, I’m familiar with the story of Ruth, from the love story portion. However, I haven’t stopped to consider Naomi’s intense grief. I encourage you to get a copy of this book and read this chapter fully. 

DeMuth expresses beautifully how being misunderstood in our grief causes a “double wound.” Every person goes through their grief and lament process differently. We don’t get to prescribe another’s healing path. 

So often, when it comes to recovery from the devastation caused by porn, we want to dictate the process. But, as I know from experience, while there are steps and guideposts we can use, each person walks the recovery healing journey in their way. It’s a privilege to walk with them. 

Steps to a Healthy Lament

Jeremiah, the prophet, in his book Lamentations, follows a typical lament process. It’s a process I followed in the early stages of my recovery without knowing much about lament. As Lori Roeleveld reminds us, God knows we need a way to pour out the pain. While I couldn’t articulate why I did what I did, it came naturally. 

Here’s what a lament process typically looks like: 

    1. Cry out or complain about the current situation. 
    2. Ask God for his help. 
    3. Tell him what you know to be true about his character and trustworthiness. 
    4. Praise him in the midst of the turmoil. 
    5. Remind yourself that God is still God and maintains control. 

I encourage my clients to follow this process in their journaling. Looking back over my years of journals, I find many examples of the gift of lament. The steps may look a little different or be in a slightly unusual order, but the process works. Practicing this healthy lament process ultimately brings healing and joy to your heart and soul.

How do you process your pain? 

You may not be comfortable weeping in public or sharing your story with a large group. That’s okay. But please don’t keep it bottled up inside, stoically moving forward as though nothing has happened. Find a friend or two to share the pain. Mental health professionals tell us it’s critical to process emotions in healthy ways. Otherwise, we experience significant impacts to our mental health, physical health, and social relationships. 

We need each other. The healthiest thing we did in the first moments of porn addiction recovery was to reach out to a few safe people. My friend’s ability to accept my anguished tears opened the door to a healthy healing process through the gift of lament. 

If you need help, please reach out by clicking this link. I promise to listen without judgment and help you discover your next step forward.