Unfulfilled Expectations

The Lessons in Lament: Finding Purpose in the Pain of Unfulfilled Expectations

The second installment of the series delves into the biblical practice of lament as a means to cope with disappointment and unfulfilled expectations. By examining the Psalms of Lament and the book of Lamentations, the post discusses how expressing our sorrows and frustrations to God is a step toward healing and understanding His purpose for our lives. The blog will provide practical steps for incorporating lament into one’s prayer life as a pathway to finding hope and renewal for the year ahead.

Key Verses: Psalm 42; Lamentations 3:22-23

The Lessons in Lament: Finding Purpose in the Pain of Unfulfilled Expectations As 2023 recedes into memory, many of us carry the heavy weight of unrealized aspirations and the somber reality of an unfulfilled year….

The Lessons in Lament: Finding Purpose in the Pain of Unfulfilled Expectations

As 2023 recedes into memory, many of us carry the heavy weight of unrealized aspirations and the somber reality of an unfulfilled year. Before hastily setting new goals for 2024, we should pause to confront these feelings through the biblical tradition of lament—a tradition through which the sorrow and humanity of the Scripture’s figures come into sharp focus, and into which we can pour our own lived experiences.

Job: The Existential Wrestler

Envision Job amidst the rubble of his life, where each piece of debris symbolizes a fragment of his shattered world. He sits in the ashen remnants, clothes torn, skin afflicted with relentless agony. The questions haunting his every thought are etched deep in his furrowed brow. How could a life so blessed become a canvas of such inexplicable tragedy?

Job’s integrity, lauded by God Himself, is evident not only in his prosperity but also now in his poverty. It did not hinge on the blessings he received but was an integral part of his character—unwavering even as his lament pours forth like a deluge. Scrutinize the depth in Job’s eyes, the sorrow that swirls there but also the unyielding flicker of faith as he clings to the truths of his Creator.

The stark reality of Job’s distress, the visceral, guttural cries to God resonate with our innate desire for justice and meaning when life turns inexplicably cruel. As he dares to argue with God, laying bare his despair and frustrations without concealing a drop of bitterness, we find a permission slip for our grievances—a holy license to petition the heavens with our raw displeasure and pain.


Jeremiah: The Heartbroken Intercessor

Picture Jeremiah, the reluctant prophet, his heart heavy with the weight of a mandate that calls him to proclaim a message that breaks his own heart. His tears are not just his but carry the brine of a nation’s collapse. His laments paint a visceral image—it’s as if he roams the streets, treading over the remnants of what once was, his voice choked by the acrid smoke of his beloved city’s ruin.

We imagine him at night, the city’s cries echoing against the stone walls, mirroring his internal turmoil. His laments become almost symphonic, a lamentation punctuated by the rhythm of his tears—an intercession that reflects a profound yearning for his people’s deliverance. They serve as a dirge to hope, yet in their midst is a steadfast refrain that refuses to let go of God’s mercy.

In Jeremiah’s tears, we witness the mingling of the prophet’s personal pain with his sorrow for his people—a sorrow that births not only empathy but an incarnational form of worship that deeply connects him to the sinew and soul of his community. We, too, can find solace in the authenticity of such grief, taking on the challenges and despairs of those around us, embracing their pain as our own.

Jesus: The Divine in Distress

Contemplate Jesus, the savior of the world, knowing intimately the desolation that awaits Him. His time in Gethsemane is not one of tranquil meditation but of violent foreboding. Rivulets of blood streak his face as he prays—stress manifesting physically. Here, the raw honesty of his dread does not represent a weakening of faith but reveals the magnitude of his humanity.

It is in the phrase “if it is possible” (Matthew 26:39) that we see Jesus grappling with the reality of His choice. Lament squeezes itself from his lips not as an abandonment of mission but as an affirmation of the agony that accompanies obedience. There is no stoic silence but a powerful, heartfelt outcry, embodying a depth of sorrow that will touch the very nerve of human existence.

In His solitude, Jesus teaches us that our darkest laments are shared with a God who has Himself walked the lonely path of suffering. When our whispers in the dark feel unanswered, we can draw strength from the image of Jesus—alone, afraid, yet ultimately surrendered to God’s purpose, showing us that to lament is not to lose faith but to engage with God at the most profound level.


Our Lament, Our Humanity

Through the lens of Job’s existential struggle, Jeremiah’s communal outcry, and Jesus’ willing surrender, our own laments find context. When we lament, we do not just express dissatisfaction or disillusionment; we engage with a God who is intimately acquainted with our infirmities and beckons us closer through our sorrow.

In your moment of lament, embrace the freedom to confront God with the untamed rawness of your emotions, just as Job did. Feel the liberating tears, as Jeremiah did, that come from sharing in the pain and suffering of your wider community. And in your darkest Gethsemane moments, when you cry out for another way, know that Jesus too walked that shadowed path. Your lamentations hold space for spiritual catharsis and affirm your humanity—a humanity that Jesus Christ himself bore.

As the new year awaits, reframe your understanding of unfulfilled expectations not as an end, but as a sacred space for growth, a place where God shapes your heart through the whittling of grief, and where your trust is deepened with each tearful plea. Carry your lament as a badge of your humanity, a humanity deeply cherished by the God who promises redemption for every sorrow and a future resplendent with hope.