The cloud settled upon my soul. God’s presence enveloped me as I sat with shock in the realization that Joy St. Clare, our family’s faithful companion of 13 years, breathed her last moments. In disbelief I rationalized that while she appeared to slow down, she just walked with me the day before. I didn’t know it was her last day. She lived a long vibrant life bringing Joy to our home, but I never dreamed of her leaving us.

Lament – Express deep grief. An expression of regret, disappointment, or complaint. A spiritual practice in the midst of loss.

My soul felt heavy. My mind covered by a deep fog. My heart broken.

I never wanted a dog. But, God knew our family needed a dog. Joy joined me through life. She sat on the couch with me, her head leaning on my the edge of my computer as I wrote the bi-weekly Spigot. She opened Christmas presents that were not hers, cleaned up the fallen crumbs upon the floor, and put her nose in my face and licked me when I put on my walking shoes. Whenever I walked in the front door she perked her head up to see me before settling back into her slumber. Twice a day she lingered in the outdoors, smelling the various odors along the path.

Joy’s little tail wiggled her whole body in excitement, which we affectionately called her “Joy Stick.” She loved to “camel” by drinking a lot of water from the container I used to water the flowers; she ate peanut butter and chased snowballs. Leaves were her playful objects to pounce and she created her own snow cones by scooping snow with her mouth as she ran. What a full life!

We learned a lot from her presence. She taught Gary and I daily rhythms like walking and talking so we lived connected. Sammy and Sophie created a “Dog Contract” developing commitment and responsibility to care for and clean up after Joy. Living the way God created her, Joy hunted like a champion with the most amazing nose for sniffing out pheasant in the field. Additionally, she hovered near my side as I recovered, offering me comfort through my cancer journey. With Gary traveling and the kids having moved out, Joy faithfully joined me in the ordinary days of life.

Joy taught me perseverance. She exhibited patience in extraordinary ways. Many mornings she followed me through the house, watching and waiting as I got ready before taking her on a morning walk. She never complained, even as she aged. She demonstrated full presence when we were together, with focused attention and not distraction. She wasn’t perfect, but pretty close 😉.

I miss her.

Many of us have experienced loss in the last 18+ months. The emotion of grief is tough. Although uncomfortable, we feel sad, sorrow, and despair. These and other hard feelings and emotions exist throughout the Bible. Two-thirds of the Psalms are described as either individual or communal Psalms of Lament. Additionally, although Jeremiah may be the most noted prophet who lamented, many of the prophets spoke songs of sorrow in various forms.

Reflect for a moment. When have you experienced sadness, despair, injustice, or pain in the last month or several months? Let the emotion authentically rise to the surface of your soul. 

As I reflect on the last weeks, months, and years, I notice God inviting me into a season of lament. I realize the Triune God created these strong feelings and even expressed them throughout the Word. God was grieved that he made man in Genesis 6:6; his heart was filled with pain. Isaiah spoke for God declaring that he “will cry out like a woman in labor, [He] will gasp and pant” (42:12).

Hebrews states that Jesus “offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death” (5:7), and in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus said that His soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (Mark 14:34). Likewise, the Holy Spirit of God can be grieved (Eph. 4:30) and the Spirit identifies with the pain and sorrows of disciples of Christ so much that he intercedes for us through wordless groans ( sighs too deep for words)” (Romans 8:26).

Created in the image of God, when we lament and grieve, we reflect the emotions of God, as revealed in Scripture.

Consider the strong emotions of God and understand that the strong emotions you experience reflect Him. Thank Him for His presence with you in your inner being.

Lament offers an invitation to wholeness. The Bible accommodates the full range of human experience, especially that of suffering through the Psalms of Lament. These cries for help flow from broken hearts and distressed souls, and yet the focus shifts from the weight of pain to God who accompanies through the pain.

In lament we express the depths of pain before God and others, calling upon the God of the universe to help and rescue. Through lament the meaning of suffering becomes secondary to the primary presence and power of our triune God who cares for us. We look to God for deliverance through lament.

Practice lament with the Lover of your soul. Allow Him to enter your sorrow with His faithful character. You can trust Him.

Use this structure, modeled from Scripture, to write or speak your own lament:

  • God – Address God – call out His character, His names, and His promises and presence in your life.
  • Share – Speak authentic anguish and complaint for the suffering you experience and see around you.
  • Trust – Confess trust in God whether you feel it or not. Speak Truth.
  • Deliverance – Pray for deliverance, proclaiming why God must act. Declare His attributes and responsibility. Plead the qualities of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • Thanksgiving – Express gratitude to God for hearing, seeing, and answering in righteousness and justice. Release the outcome to the Lord.

Bring all sorrow before the Lord: big and small. Let Him attend to your soul in your heartache and pain. Receive His invitation to healing and wholeness as you surrender the sadness within. Experience His gentle loving care to the deep emotions inside you. Let Him hold you and meet you in your songs of Lament.

While I miss Joy and lament her passing, I trust in the Lord, His timing, and His presence to comfort my sadness. I celebrate 13 amazing years with her and for the realization I needed a dog and still need a dog…

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Drips from the Word: Muse about these Bible verses. Let these truths impact your living.

Psalm 3 – Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.

Splashes from the Spigot: Drink from deep wells. Read these recommended books to fill your soul.

Esther Fleece Allen. No More Faking Fine. Grand Rapids, MI. 2017.

Mark Vrogop. Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament. Wheaton,IL. 2019.

Sprinklings of Truth: Soak in meaningful songs. Check out these music videos to lift up your spirit.

Rend Collective. Weep with Me.

Matt Boswell and Matt Papa. Lord From Sorrows Deep I Call (Psalm 42).