lament: a perspective on sadness in the bible


Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. director of family ministry at st. edward's episcopal church. president of fistbump media, llc.

February 26, 2020

Wanna know something that drives me crazy?

Happiness. Not all happiness. I’m very pro-happiness. I just don’t like fake happiness. You know, the kind people show you at church when you ask them how they’re doing.

People put on the smile, and tell you, “I’m doing great!” And you know they’re just dying inside. Maybe they’re fighting with their spouse… in the car on the way to church. Maybe they lost their cool with kids who they feel like they’re losing control of.

But we can’t let anyone, especially at church, know that we’re not doing well. So we cover it up with a fake smile and lie to people’s faces about how we’re really doing.

Can you relate?

Of course, you can. We all can. We all do it.

My question is, what happened to lament? The Bible shows us over and over again that things just don’t go right in our lives. Often, it’s due to our own actions and rebellion. Yet, in the church, we focus so hard on trying to be happy.

But sometimes you just need to cry.

What Is Lament In the Bible?

In simple terms, it’s an expression of grief or sorrow. It’s that deep and passionate sadness that we experience, especially during the loss of someone (or something) very meaningful to us.

Laments are everywhere in the Bible. We see them throughout the Old Testament in stories like Abraham’s and David’s. We’ll explore this in more depth, but many of the Psalms are laments. Jeremiah, the prophet, wrote an entire book that we call Lamentations. And we see stories in the New Testament where even Jesus wept.

I’m not ignoring statements like we see in Revelation 21:4 where God will, “wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain;” indicating that we will not experience lament in eternity. But even in a statement like this, there’s a recognition that we have lament in our lives here and now.

Here’s the thing. It’s okay to be sad. It’s biblical to be sad. Jesus experienced and expressed sadness.

The good news is that the Bible gives us a clear model for how to lament.

Exploring Lament

In this series, we’ll take a deep look at what lament is, and how we can express it in a healthy way. We’ll look at examples from a few key stories in the Bible, and I’ll share some of my own experiences with lament.

Here’s what we’ll dive into:

psalms of lament in 6 parts (coming soon)

3 benefits of sadness and lament (coming soon)

other notable laments in the bible (coming soon)

even if: a modern lament and testimony (coming soon)

A Sermon On Lament In the Bible

I had the opportunity to preach on this subject not long ago. Even with this message packed full of details exploring the idea of lament, it just scratches the surface. This was a hard one to deliver, mostly because I had to deal with sadness in my own life.

What Are Your Experiences With Lament?

If there is anything I’ve learned through all of this, it’s that we need each other. Something beautiful happens when we lament together. So I’m going to ask…

How are you doing? And if you answer that, I want the real answer. If you don’t want to answer that, it’s okay. But I encourage you to find someone to open up with who can come alongside you and lament with you.

And regardless, I’d love to hear about your experiences with lament. When have you experienced a time of deep sadness, and what did you learn through it?


Featured Image credit: “Lament” by INTVGene, via Creative Commons on Flickr. 


  1. David Tobin

    Great article. I am dealing with extreme sadness right now and I appreciate this post. Keep up the great work!

    • Dan King

      Thanks, David! I’m sorry to hear about your current sadness. I pray that in this time you would find God close to you. And that it be a time of connecting deeply with him and others around you. Thank you for sharing that you’re experiencing that right now.

  2. Lori

    Thank you for this! Looking forward to diving into this more!

    • Dan King

      Thanks, Lori! I’m looking forward to getting more into writing it too!

  3. Bernice

    When will you be writing more on this topic please?

    • Dan King

      Bernice, I got started on the series, and then my writing habits got put on hold with changes related to the pandemic stuff. But I expect to get back in soon and finish this series up.

  4. C

    I’d really like to see the other articles that say (coming soon).

    My daughter has completely rejected me and shut me out of her life – even to the point of returning a brief note informing her of a medical issue my doctor advised me to notify my biological children if so she might be tested.

    I do not want to triangulate anyone in this situation. So am at a loss as what to do. Except pray. And mourn. But I struggle because I have no one within 300 miles I trust to pray and mourn with me. I am not alone for our sweet Lord is with me. But it’d be nice to have a hug and a prayer too.

    I moved to a very small community that loves gossip and knowing everyone else’s business – I do not feel emotionally safe here . Not even with those who go to church and claim to care.

    • Dan King

      C… I’m sorry to hear about all of this! I absolutely understand how difficult it would be to go through something like this. It may not make a huge difference, but I certainly can pray (and I am) for your situation.

      I’ll work on the other “coming soon” pieces of this series. BUT… pretty much all of it is in the video of the sermon I preached. The series here is meant to really just break down different parts of that message. But I’ll definitely work on getting the rest of that done here soon.

      In the meantime, I just pray that the Lord would comfort you in your situation, and that you would feel His peace like a big hug! Amen!


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lament: a perspective on sadness in the bible

by Dan King time to read: 6 min