Psalms: To Lament

According to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary (2018), a lament is, “an expression of grief or sorrow.”

The Psalms are full of songs of lament, where the Psalmist is crying out to God in sorrow, grief and regret.  Feeling alone, persecuted, lost, angry, grief-stricken and more.

Maybe you’re lamenting something or someone right now – a lost relationship, job, a diagnosis, an illness, or maybe even a loved one?  Or maybe you’re feeling far from the Lord, like He has forgotten you?

Maybe, in your situation, you have been avoiding your emotions.  You have been trying to keep busy or distracted to not face how you’re really feeling.  Watching tv, spending too much time on social media, overeating, overspending, maybe using drugs or alcohol to numb yourself.  All the while, your emotions are stuffed deeper inside.

Sometimes this avoidance of dealing with and expressing our deeper emotions comes out in petty arguments and picking fights.  Feeling “on edge” and irritated.

Meanwhile the answer for relief is in being willing to acknowledge how you’re really feeling.  Ironically, much of the time our deep emotions, including anger and disappointment are not with the people we pick fights with; but they’re really with God.  

Why do you think the Lord included Psalms of lament in the Bible?  Have you thought of that before?  Maybe there’s a reason why lamenting is shared with us in the Psalms. Maybe it’s an example for us.  God does not fear our honesty in coming to Him; it’s us who fear coming to God honestly.

Consider this quote from theologian, D.A. Carson: “There is no attempt in Scripture to whitewash the anguish of God’s people when they undergo suffering. They argue with God, they complain to God, they weep before God. Theirs is not a faith that leads to dry-eyed stoicism, but to a faith so robust it wrestles with God”.

Let’s consider Psalm 13:

“To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

3Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
4lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,’
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

5But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.”

In the first few verses, David starts with an immediate question and accusation – is it going to take God forever to remember him?  He describes trying to figure things out on his own, which has left him feeling dark and sorrowful.  He feels as if his enemies are basically winning.

In verses 3 and 4, David petitions God to remember him, to not allow him to waste away.  He asks for God to enliven him – put the life back in him. David explains that it would be wrong for his enemy, or in this context, for evil to win, or to have the victory.

And finally, in verses 5 and 6, David reminds both God and him, of God’s faithfulness; stating with confidence that things will be okay, as God has been faithful to him in the past, and so David declares that he will continue to praise and trust God.

Psalm 13 is one of the shortest laments in the book of Psalms.  And so it works well in the context of a blog.  But please don’t miss the significance of David’s experience expressed here.

Once again, we don’t know how long it really took David to go from asking where God was, to choosing to trust God to come through.  Many of the Psalms follow a similar format; starting with desperate cries to the Lord and ending in praise.  But not all Psalms of lament do.

Some Psalms express the Psalmists anguish, which they poured out to the Lord for many verses, with no expression of resolution or praise at the end.  And that may be where you are at.  And that’s okay; it’s honest.

But let me ask you – do you relate?  Do you feel as if God has left you?  Tell Him how you feel.  Are you exhausted trying to figure out what to do, or how to respond?  Tell Him how you feel.  Do you feel like your enemies have the upper hand, like they’re winning? Tell Him how you feel.

If it’s difficult to say it, consider writing your own Psalm.  We have 150 Psalms in the Bible as examples.  Use the Psalmists words or write your own. Or consider writing a letter, to God. Or draw a picture. Or tell Him outloud. He’s made each of us uniquely, and you should communicate with Him in the way that feels most natural to you. However it’s packaged, I encourage you to express to God what you need to say.

As always, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or you’re not even sure where to begin, I encourage you to reach out to a pastor, therapist or trusted friend.  You are not alone.

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