Given the bright lights and dark shadows of cyberspace, how might we suffer well in this protean and prodigious realm? How do we weep, moan, lament, and agonize online?
Humans bring their fallenness into all their endeavors. Tears and laughter accompany us wherever we go. Suffering well over our own misfortune or that of another requires learning the art of lament.
We live in a groaning creation, and we groan along with it. Even God is not excluded from this groaning.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Rom. 8:22–26).
Ecclesiastes says much the same thing. After searching and experiencing life by wisdom, the Preacher says:
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all (Ecc. 9:11, KJV).
Even after the coming of Jesus Christ, we must still lament in this broken world. Lament is an art, and it can be practiced well in cyberspace. Biblically speaking, I understand lament to be the anguished cry of sorrow, grief, and often anger made before God and, in some cases, with hope of resolution. At its best, lament is caused by the loss of a true good or by the fear of the loss of a true good. This lament may be over one’s sins or simply because of the often inexplicable brokenness of a fallen world. One may lament over oneself, others, or the creation itself.
Lament comes from the grace of God as a way to suffer skillfully.
Self-pity, however, is another story. The Oxford online dictionary defines self-pity as “excessive, self-absorbed unhappiness over one’s own troubles.” Self-pity is selfish and self-centered; it closes in on itself and refuses gift of lament. Scripture sometimes calls this complaining—in the sense of grumbling or griping. Paul writes, “Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you” (Phil. 2:14–15, NLT). Complaining is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23) but rather emanates from the flesh. God punished such grumbling harshly in the history of Israel (Num. 11). Paul warns the Christians at Corinth to not be like them.
Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. ... And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel (1 Cor. 10:6, 10).