We cannot rush through sorrow. Walking through pain and loss and grief is like walking through water—slow, hard, and exhausting. It takes time. And it takes a toll on us. We feel trapped in confusion, surrounded by chaos.
From ancient times, God’s people have turned to lament to give voice to their grief, to call upon a seemingly silent God. Lament gives structure in the midst of chaos. It gives us the language of the languishing. In the Bible, such laments often take the form of the alphabet, where each verse progresses from the Hebrew alphabet’s “A to Z.” These acrostic laments, as they’re called, help us organize our grief and structure our sorrow. More importantly, they give us words when all speech seems to fail us.
Here is a lament I’ve written especially for victims of hurricanes. May it be for you, for your family, or for your church, a way to put into prayer the anguish of your souls.
A LAMENT FOR HURRICANE VICTIMS
Awake, God, why are you sleeping?
Anguish and anxiety stab at the walls of our soul.
Bereft of hope, our eyes see only midnight’s stare.
Bright days of joy have sunk beneath the dark waters.
Cries arise from the rubble of shattered dreams.
Crevices widen that threaten to swallow us up.
Dear God, why are your lips silent?
Death and desolation envelop us on every side.
Every street is a river, every home a swamp.
Evening and morning, we wade through muddy waters.
Forget us not, O Lord, for we are your children.
Find us, save us, remember us for your name’s sake.
Gray skies overhang us, black clouds sneer down.
Gone is our strength, for we are beaten on every side.
Help us, dear Father, do not stand afar off.
Hasten to rescue us, lest we sink beneath the waters.
Instead of laughter, weeping is our soul’s song.
Icy cold has crept into the cracks of our hearts.
Joy is a memory and pain dogs our every waking hour.
Jubilation is trampled into the mire of the streets.
Killing waves have devoured the lives of those we loved,
Kidnapped by foes wearing liquid masks.
Look down from heaven and see!
Liberate your people from the ocean of despair!
Mothers’ arms hold only the phantom of lost children,
Maimed and broken bodies lie in hospitals and morgues.
Neighborhoods vanish beneath the onslaught of waves.
Numberless memories sink into oblivion.
Our God, our God, why have you forsaken us?
Open your eyes and see the affliction of our souls.
Place your healing hand upon our open wounds.
Pull us away from the yawning pit of despair.
Quiet the storms that rage on our land and in our hearts.
Quench the fires of doubt that turn our hope into ash.
Rise up, O Lord, as in days of old.
Redeem us for the sake of your love and mercy.
Silence the screams of fear and sorrow roaring within us.
Spare us lest we perish in the flood of depression.
Tell us again of your undying love toward us,
Teach us to be still and know that you are God.
Unveil your light, lest the pall of death overshadow us.
Unite our divided hearts to fear your name.
Vindicate us, O Lord, and set our feet on a dry place.
Visit us in our distress and wipe away our tears.
We are your people, your beloved children.
Wield your sword to defend us from the evil one.
X-ray our hearts, search our innermost minds,
X out every malignant spot of unhealed grief.
You, O Lord, have promised never to walk away from us.
Yesterday, today, tomorrow, calm the troubled waters of our souls.
Zero in on your suffering people, the apple of your eye, and
Zealously, fervently, hold us till the storm is past.