In most public spheres we are required to adopt the language of equilibrium; the raw edges of suffering and chaos must be suppressed or denied in order to ensure “safety and security”. This is particularly true in the political sphere, where denial seems to be an integral part of political strategy. Consequently, our speech corresponds with the “normalities” of a self-deceptive culture in which everything must appear to be functional, and which may never depict frailty and brokenness. Language that upholds this culture of denial becomes mundane and unimaginative: it dare not criticize the raw reality of the status quo, dare not be revolutionary and dangerous. Perhaps the loss of lamentation is due to unspoken belief that Christians “should not complain”. The latter has indeed been an ethos pervading Christian thought for many centuries, even to the point where complaint and lack of faith have been typified as synonymous. Or, could it be a result of our success-driven society, in which weakness and failure, and therefore lament, can have no place?

Perhaps the confession of sin has become the Christianized form of the lament. The Christian whose sins have been confessed and forgiven should then no longer complain about suffering to God, but rather bear his or her suffering patiently. It is after all “of this world”, and therefore unimportant and insignificant. This, however, is a far cry from the cries of lament that we hear in the Bible.

The language of lament articulates those feelings and experiences on the edges of our existence, feelings and experiences of liminality that disrupt our equilibrium and shatters our mediocrity, and kindle in us a longing for transcendence. Using this language, we can speak out in an honest and liberating manner about the rawness of life, in contrast to conventional speech which is often nothing else but a linguistic cover-up. The uniqueness of the language of lament lies in the fact that through it we address God, even if it is an abrasive and argumentative way of protesting against that which caused the lament.
-Johan Cilliers-