Scripture and Neuroscience Agree: It Helps to Lament in Community

Through song, liturgy, and communion, the body of Christ inhabits the suffering experienced by its weakest members.

Recently, I awoke suddenly around 1:45am in a tangle of sheets, pillows, and sweat, my body fitfully grasping for peace in the presence of pain. I had just made a medication shift the day before, and after over a decade of living with Ankylosing Spondylitis, I knew my joints were demanding attention and deserving of care.

When one part of the body is inflamed, the body needs pathways to register and sense pain in order to facilitate healing. As I rubbed my swollen, aching hands against each other to quell their raging fire, I remembered Philip Yancey’s words from a recent interview, “A healthy body is not one that feels no pain. A healthy body is one that attends to the pain of its weakest part.”

All too often in our bodies, and in the body of Christ, we’d rather pretend health is the absence of pain rather than the willing care of it. And if Yancey is right, when we order our lives and our worship services around overcoming pain rather than attending to it, we block the pathways that mediate our healing. When the church does not make space for lament, the church is not whole.

Last month a reader on Instagram sent me a long message detailing how her family’s pain felt unwelcome in her church. Her daughter had just been hospitalized due to persistent, intense suicidal thoughts, and that Sunday the sermon was about conquering anxiety with truth. While the pastor enthusiastically bubbled over the victory we can have in Christ, she deflated in the defeat of not hearing the complexity of her daughter’s pain acknowledged. “There was no mention that sometimes depression is clinical,” she wrote. “The only answer he offered was to pray more.”

My reader was exposing a common …

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