Lament In James And Its Significance For The Church -- By: D. Keith Campbell

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 60:1 (Mar 2017)
Article: Lament In James And Its Significance For The Church
Author: D. Keith Campbell

Lament In James And Its Significance
For The Church

D. Keith Campbell*

* Keith Campbell is Vice President of Global Partnerships, Global Scholars, 100 E. Park Street, Suite 206, Olathe, KS 66061. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Abstract: Christians have long heard the voice in James of the suffering Christian who endures joyfully and faithfully until Christ’s triumphant return, a voice that has justifiably encouraged multitudes of downtrodden believers to hang on for another day. This voice most loudly resounds in James 1:2: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” There is, however, another voice of the sufferer in James that has gone unheard—the voice of the lamenter. The lamenter does not suffer in silence but pleads passionately with God to change his or her suffering. This article listens to both voices in James and teases out some implications for today’s church.

Key Words: lament, lamenter, James, James 1:2, patient endurance, patience, suffering, prayer, trials

A stalwart of comfort and challenge during difficult times, Jas 1:2 is a staple among ministers of all stripes: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (NIV). Christians through the centuries have used Jas 1:2 to encourage their fellow believers to prayerfully and patiently endure suffering. And its influence from the preacher’s pulpit to the musician’s stage can hardly be overstated. Yet when it comes to patiently enduring suffering, there is more to James’s theology. He also teaches an equally valid and complementary response to suffering––a response yet to be discussed by Jamesian scholars, namely lament. In light of this oversight, the purpose of this article is to give a voice to the lament in James and to explore the significance of this voice for today’s church. To lay the groundwork for this exploration, I first define “lament” and situate this article against the backdrop of recent lament research.

I. Lament: Definition And Recent Research

In the current parlance of biblical research, lament is an identifiable genre that, at its core, is prayer––a distraught prayer to God for him to change something that the praying person experiences as distressing, saddening, or oppressive. Examples of experiences that frequently lead to biblical lament include, among other things, sickness, injustice, and enemy oppression. Rebekah Eklund defines lament well: “[It] is a persistent cry for...

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