The need for lament

Psalm 13

Psalm 13 is a psalm of lament. Psalms of lament are more than a little uncomfortable to read.  Should the psalmist really be saying those things out loud? Should we even be reading this stuff that the psalmist shouldn’t have said out loud in the first place? I mean, this kind of Psalm made the final cut into the cannonized scripture, right? Surely they’re not as blasphemous as they might seem at the outset.

There’s a lot of crying and lamenting in the Book of Psalms, but the Christian community at large tends to neglect or even outright ignore them. There’s a misguided belief that crying and complaining and lamenting to God are signs of poor faith: If you had strong faith, you wouldn’t feel that way. Good Christians don’t cry. Good Christians are always happy. Our joy is in the Lord no matter how miserable life gets.

So we think it’s a sign of weakness if we lament before God. We feel that perhaps God doesn’t give us the right to weep, to feel pain, to lament, to cry.  And that’s just ridiculous.  Never once, in all of scripture, does God say, “suck it up buttercup.”  Or like Cher is her Oscar winning performance in Moonstruck, “snap out of it!”

But there’s another element that makes us uncomfortable with these psalms. They get in touch with the pain inside of us that we’re not always eager to engage.  Ignoring the pain seems easier that trying to deal with it,  and of course, that just makes it all the harder to deal with.

Why Lament?

We need lament. We need it deeply and desperately. We need it because there is simply so much pain in life–physical pain, emotional pain, mental pain, spiritual pain, your pain, your friend’s pain, the pain of people you don’t even know, yet feel.

Lament is a vital and life-giving part of our faith, because bottling up our pain and tears does not produce health and healing. It produces increased anxiety and illness, and ultimately, a growing feeling of distance between us and God.

Lament not only gives us some release and relief from the pain, it increases our intimacy with God. We know that close relationships with people can only be forged when we trust them enough to share our deepest yearnings and our pain and our struggles.

What is true on a human level is even truer in our relationship with God. Your personal relationship with God will be deeper, more honest, and have greater integrity when you are willing to be honest. There is healing to be had by being brutally honest with God.

When tragic boating accidents and senseless shootings dominate the news

When our lives are turned upside down by the needs of ailing parents or children with special needs or spouses with cancer diagnoses.

When we lose someone we love without any warning or time to prepare

When dear friends announce that their marriage is on longer viable and they are calling it quits

If we refuse to come to God in our pain with our souls bared and our hearts open and our mouths uncensored, then what kind of relationship do we have with God? A God we have to tip toe around? A God who only wants to hear from us when things are going great? A God who thinks that the truly faithful live in a world of rainbows and unicorns all the time?

Lament is a sign of faithfulness

Lament not only affirms our belief in God—because after all why would we cry out to a God we didn’t believe was there? But lament also affirms our trust in God. Our trust that in the midst of our pain,  God will receive us as we are, help us where we are and guide us to the place God calls us to be.

Whatever your pain is today, whatever lament rings out of your spirits, I pray that as you bring it before God you will know the healing of this God who in unfailing love never says, “Snap out of it!”   A God who knows what it is to hurt and suffer. A God who, no matter how much we yell and wail and cry, will never let us go.

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