In this series, we’re looking at six essential practices for a life-giving small group: remembering, listening, blessing, celebrating, mourning, and resting.
The community that celebrates together also practices mourning together.
Like remembering, listening, blessing, and celebrating, the practice of mourning is deeply rooted in the Scriptures. The story of Israel is a narrative of mourning and longing for redemption. The Psalms, the songbook of the Bible, are full of laments—prayers and heart-cries to God for deliverance from pain and death. There’s even an entire book of the Bible called Lamentations!
Jesus, the Man of sorrows, wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus and was grieved to the point of sweating blood in the garden of Gethsemane. Paul famously encouraged the church to “rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). We don’t grieve as those without hope (1 Thess. 4:13), but we do hurt and suffer and groan in this broken world.
Why is it so important that we as a church family—and community groups in particular—be able to mourn and lament together?
Mourning is the right response to the brokenness of our world. When a friend or family member dies, we mourn together. When a member develops a chronic illness, we lament over the pain and suffering. When the church faces persecution from the world, we cry out “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Unlike the world, we don’t have to pretend to have it all together. We don’t have to act like our world isn’t broken. We shouldn’t try to show a happy face every week. Life is hard and full of suffering and evil. We need one another, and perhaps more than any of these other spiritual practices, lament needs to be done in relationship. When we are mourning, we need one another!
I’ve occasionally had non-Christian friends say, “I don’t need God; I don’t need church. I just go hiking and enjoy nature instead.” Sure, that can sound appealing—a nature walk in a beautiful park on a Sunday morning.
But when suffering comes, when your body fails, when a loved one dies, when you’re treated unjustly and marginalized, what then? Nature is not going to come visit you. Trails don’t make hospital visits.
We need one another in times of plenty and in times of lament. How might your group practice mourning together? How might you better embrace the brokenness of our world and lament with hope?
Read Part Six: Resting.
Jeremy Linneman is pastor of community life at Sojourn Community Church, a diverse family of four interdependent congregations in Louisville, Kentucky. A graduate of the University of Missouri and Southern Seminary, he is the founder/director of Fidelity Coaching, a leadership development group, and an occasional writer for The Gospel Coalition and other sites. He and his wife, Jessie, have three sons.