What is the Christian’s response to racism and injustice? Among many facets, we are called to act, speak, teach, and preach. But that is not all: we lament. Lament is to express one’s sorrow to God. The writer of Hebrews says, “”Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” A call to lament is a Biblical response to grief. In lament, we find God’s help.
On Sunday night, May 31, 2020, in the wake George Floyd’s death, The Garden Church spent time lamenting together. Four church members were asked to write four laments. Stephanie, Andrew, Jody, and Alton then led the church in lamenting the death of George Floyd and other African Americans who’s lives have been cut short, the history of racism in America, and the disparities within the justice system. What follows are the four laments written by these The Garden Church members:
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Precious in your sight is George Floyd. As he lay detained, losing breath during the course of 8 minutes and 46 seconds, you were there, O Lord.
Precious is he to you still. Lord of all––all seeing, all knowing––we need you. I need you. Come to those grieving George’s death as they cry out to you in distress. Be our strength.
Protect those who mourn from bitterness and hatred towards those who are apathetic. We put off those who pay regard to worthless idols such as racism, but we trust in the Lord.
Be gracious to those personally affected. Be gracious to those who watch from a distance fearful for their own lives. We know the loss of a father gone too soon at the hands of police brutality. We know the fear behind losing loved ones. Our eyes are wasted from grief, our souls and our bodies also. Protect those who mourn from those who hurl words and phrases of hate.
We grieve the lynching of George, we grieve our brother’s death. Did he not love you? Was it not him who took risks to proclaim your good news to those in need of new life? Was it not him who so joyfully rejoiced being in your embrace? O Lord, precious in your sight is the death of your saints. We are at a loss for words. You are the only one in whom we can trust.
Be our refuge. Comfort and console us. Protect us from our forgetfulness when George Floyd’s name becomes a distant memory. Be living water for his family members. Cause them to worship you. O Lord teach them to love you. Teach them to proclaim that the Lord does indeed preserve the faithful, but will abundantly repay the one who acts in pride. Strengthen them and us. Let our hearts take courage as we wait for you.
Lord, my heart is heavy. I am filled with pain, anger, hurt, and moments of hopelessness. I am weary and tired. I am wearing for the family of Brionna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others. I am tired of hash tagging the names of people who look like me. Who look like my husband, father, brother, daughter, cousins, my loved ones.
Lord, I feel my heart growing numb. The tears continue to flow. My heart continues to break. O Lord, how long? How long until we get justice? How long until we stop seeing young black lives taken from their loved ones too soon? How long, Lord? How long before we see our neighbors loving their neighbors? How long before the subtle (yet loud) silence of our white brethren turn into to cries for the oppressed? How long O Lord?
Hear our cry, O Lord! Attend unto our prayers. From the ends of the earth do we cry out to you. When our heart is overwhelmed lead us to the rock that is higher than us. O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. Be our strength today and forever more. You are our peace. Remind us who you are, for where else can we go? Remind us of your goodness. Remind us of your mercy. You do good always.
Remind us that in righteousness you forsook your only begotten Son so that we may not be forsaken. Remind us that you are the God of reconciliation. Reconcile us oh Lord. Who is man that you are mindful of him? It is in you our hope lies. Be our hope in the midst of our hopelessness.
On the cross you defeated death, racism, hatred, injustice. Keep us near the cross. May we look to the cross. It was on the cross, the bloody cross, where you made provision for our reconciliation. May we seek Your face and cry out to you. You are the God of justice. You are the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. May your Kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven. Bring justice. Bring peace. We long to see You. Until then, we sing, “May our struggles keep us near the cross. May our troubles show that we need God. May our battles end the way they should & may our bad days prove that God is good. May our whole life prove that God is good.” Amen.
We lament the racism in America, which started long before the United States became a nation. Racism which was present when our country was founded and remains present today. Racism, an evil which denies, minimizes, and ignores the image of God in others for power and greed.
We lament that over 400 years ago, in 1619, about 20 Africans were taken to the shores of America as slaves.
We lament that an estimated 10.7 million black men, women, and children were taken from West Africa and sold into slavery in South America, Central America, and North America. Nearly two million more are estimated to have died during the voyage.
We lament that in America, chattel slavery (where people were treated as personal property) was a legal institution woven into the fabric of society and law for over two centuries.
We lament the Jim Crow Laws after the Civil War that legalized segregation, poll taxes, other forms of oppression in the US for many years.
We lament the 4,075 documented lynchings of black people in the southeast US that took place between 1877 and 1950, and the many more that weren’t documented.
We lament redlining, which intentionally and systematically denied homes, loans, and safe spaces to the black community.
We lament eugenics which was used as an attempt to scientifically justify racism and still is to this day.
We lament the many ways in which black bodies have been taken advantage of and improperly used in experimentation by our medical system.
We lament the black lives that were attacked, beaten, and killed during the Civil Rights movement as they protested through sit-ins, boycotts, and marches for the many rights that were still denied them.
We lament how the War on Drugs disproportionately and intentionally targeted black people. Presently, black men are almost six times as likely as white men to be incarcerated because of these policies.
We lament that because of this racist legacy in our country, COVID-19 is disproportionately infecting and killing black people.
We lament the fact that many white churches in America perverted the Bible to justify racism for hundreds of years.
We lament that, since the brutal violence against Rodney King by a police officer was captured on video, we have seen countless black people abused and killed on video, many times by the police.
We lament the many racist acts that have not been captured on video.
We lament the racism that is still prevalent in the institutions of our country and in the depths of our own hearts today.
Father, our hearts ache with the realities of racial injustice that we see in our country. How long O Lord, will injustice prevail? How many more lives must be lost? How many more people will turn a blind eye to racism? Lord we’re tired, we’re hurting. Please hear the cries of your people.
Lord, we’re angry, we’re frustrated, we’re grieved with the disparities in our justice system. A justice system in which black people are five times more likely to be incarcerated than a white person. Father, we grieve the fact the one in every three black boys born in this country will go prison in his lifetime. We lament that, despite comprising only 13% of the US population, black people make up 40% of the incarcerated population. Lord, we grieve as we see light charges applied to only one of the officers involved in Floyd’s murder. Bring justice for all parties involved in this senseless murder we pray! Hear our cries O Lord! Would you straighten the crocked and bent arms of the law in this country. Grant that judges would judge cases impartially and that fair sentencing for crimes would abound.
Lord we’re grieved at how these events have become so politicized in our country. Lord, some reduce lives lost down to argument for the “Left” or the “Right”. Help us Lord! May we feel the weight of these senseless killings as we grieve the loss of these lives and many others. Lord we pray political leaders would act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with you God.
As our hearts are burdened with the injustice we see in world, may our hearts long for the day when you will come and set all things right. Jesus we thank you for making a way for us to be in right standing before the Father. Lord, we long for the day that we will be in your presence. Lord, may we not lose sight of the hope we have in you. As we wait for your return, may we not miss opportunities to point family, friends, and neighbors to a hope that is found in no other name but yours, Jesus. Would you give us the boldness to advocate and speak out for justice on this side of eternity. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! All this I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen