“It seems to me that we do not need to be taught how to lament since we have so many models in Scripture. What we need is simply the assurance that it’s okay to lament. We all carry deep within ourselves a pressurized reservoir of tears. It takes only the right key at the right time to unlock them. In God’s perfect time, these tears can be released to form a healing flood. That’s the beauty and the mystery of the prayer of lament.”
Michael Card, author of A Sacred Sorrow
We are all carrying burdens we can bring to God in lament. Some burdens are personal; we carry guilt from broken relationships, shame from past abuse, or grief for loved ones who died too soon. Some burdens are corporate; we may join with others in deep sadness, empathy, or compassion for a particular group of people. And now we are all carrying this universal burden of the coronavirus.
N.T. Wright, in his book God and the Coronavirus, wrote “…when death sneaks into houses and shops, when you may feel healthy yourself but you may be carrying the virus without knowing it, when every stranger on the street is a threat, when we go around in masks, when churches are shut and people are dying with nobody to pray by their bedside–this is a time of lament. For admitting we don’t have easy answers.”
How might the artist respond in a Godly way to the burdens of this world?
First, the artist brings these burdens to God in prayer. For us to use our artistic skill and gifts to address suffering and injustice, we have to be connected to the power of the Holy Spirit. We must first release the weight of our burdens to God before our hands can be free to create art that points others to God.
We ask God to guide our creativity. We listen expectantly. God inspires our artistic gifts in different ways. When you pray, do you see images? Melodies? Words? Artists I’ve known tell me that some of their work was inspired by images, words, and melodies that came to them as they prayed.
Next, capture your impressions and strokes of inspiration. Find what works for you: a journal, a Google Doc, a sketchbook, a voice recorder. We can practice being honest before God, experiment and brainstorm without fear of rejection or failure in these safe places.
Third, engage Scripture. Reading scripture fills our minds with God’s truth and prepares our hearts to receive God’s beauty. Scripture also gives us stories of real people with real suffering; stories that show us a glimpse of how to live before God in the midst of suffering.
How can we express and respond to the suffering of those afflicted with COVID19? One place we can start is to turn to Psalm 38 and read what David had to say about sickness:
My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.
All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes.
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds;
my neighbors stay far away.
After we bring our burdens to God in prayer, after we wait expectantly for his guidance, after we capture the creative impressions he gives us, after we fill our minds and our hearts with His word, then we will be artists well equipped to lead others in lament before the mercy seat of God.
Catherine Miller and Henry Miller are a husband-and-wife creative duo. They’ve learned that they work better together than apart! Hailing from Tallahassee, Florida, they enjoy discussing the theology of creativity, writing and songwriting, and making music together. Catherine is the Online Team Leader for United Adoration. They have three kids, two cats and a dog that bring joy and lament in regular doses.