Posted June 19, 2020
By Tammy Warren | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — When author and artist P. Lynn Miller proposed the theme of “lament” to the national Bible Study Committee of Presbyterian Women four years ago, no one had any idea how timely the topic would be now.
COVID-19 has kept Presbyterian Women/Horizons from introducing its 2020–21 nine-lesson Bible study in person at synod and presbytery gatherings. So “Into the Light: Finding Hope Through Prayers of Lament” was introduced by Miller during a Zoom webinar hosted by the Presbyterian Women national moderator JyungIn “Jenny” Lee and executive director Susan Jackson Dowd.
Click below to find a recording of the webinar that Miller held to introduce the study, and below to find information about ordering copies of the study and related materials.
“I think, in our culture, we often hesitate to lament, and when we do, we are eager and sometimes hasty to get to happiness and hope too quickly,” Lee said. “It will be a good practice of faith to be lamenting together, especially in supportive settings like PW circles.”
She added: “Lamenting is not the same as complaining. At the moment, there are so many things going on in this nation that we feel helpless about. We may feel hopeless because we feel helpless.”
Lee hopes that small group study of “Into the Light” will provide opportunities to listen and process unspoken groans as participants sit together with heartfelt laments in the presence of God, while finding hope again.
“One of the foundational points of the study is that, in Scripture, lament usually leads to hope,” writes Miller, a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). “After crying out to God, the one who laments remembers God. And while that doesn’t fix things in the moment — the injustice, the loss still exists — the lamenter is strengthened to face the world and to hope.”
Miller wrote the study, after experiencing a series of difficult events in 2016 that left her questioning and adjusting and feeling.
“What do you say to God in years like that?” Miller asked. The biblical answer, she said, is that you lament which, at its heart, is really about turning to God, crying out to God in prayer and finding hope.
“Just look at the world in which we live today. What do we do about those things in our world that cannot possibly be aligned with God’s will and purpose for this world? Rather than spending our energy name-calling and vilifying one another on social media, I would offer lament as a theological response.”
The study includes the “practice of lament,” because “learning about lament” is not the same as “learning to lament,” Miller said. “Our world is in enough of a state that I think we need to practice lament just a little bit more.”