Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:9-10
These verses come somewhat as a surprise—grieving, mourning and wailing don’t sound like a victorious Christian life, especially as elsewhere in the Bible we’re told to rejoice. I was reading, Thrive by Matthew Jacoby and he explains it this way: “Lament is the gateway to joy. This is a basic biblical principle. If we want to ‘reap with shouts of joy’ we must ‘sow in tears.’ There is no other way.”
To lament isn’t something we are familiar with in our culture. The dictionary definition is: to express sorrow, mourning, or regret for. Many of the Psalms are laments where David or others express their sorrow over their failures or the failure of God’s people. Yet often by the end of the psalm, they are remembering God’s mercy and his unfailing love to his people. This is different to the murmurings of God’s people in the wilderness. They murmured because they felt God was treating them poorly as if they were entitled to be blessed. In the wilderness they became arrogant, expecting God to be focused on their needs and quickly forgetting that he had rescued them from slavery in Egypt.
James says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord.” This is the natural outcome of lamenting. We realize our own shortcomings and our inability to fix all that’s wrong in our world. We look to God as the all-sufficient One. Whatever is wrong with the world, whatever is wrong with my life, God can fix. Lamenting leads us to put our hope in God and his promise is that he will lift us up.