Faithful Lament

The psalms model faithful lament. Lament is the expression of grief, pain, and sorrow. Our everyday word for it would be complaint. Life does not always go merrily along without a care even for people of faith. Bereavement, calamities, loss, illness, and painful interpersonal relationships may come to the best of us. The psalms reflect this aspect of real life. The psalms express these raw, but honest human emotions, but they do so in the framework of trusting God.

In Encountering the Book of Psalms, C. Hassell Bullock notes:

While the boldness and naked honesty of the psalmists may shock us, this attitude is nevertheless instructive for our own spiritual lives. We sometimes hold back too much from God, conceal our true feelings in prayer, and create a false image of ourselves at the heavenly throne of grace.

The psalms become tutors for our own prayer lives. We learn that God wants us to be fully open and transparent before him. We can cast our anxieties upon him; he is willing to hear our pain as well as our praise.

Bullock, however, offers a caution:

But it is also a dangerous freedom that can too easily move us, on the divine level, in the direction of spiritual defiance and mutiny.

Jeremiah provides a warning example of this freedom going too far. At one point, he says to God:

Why is my pain unceasing,
my wound incurable,
refusing to be healed?
Will you be to me like a deceitful brook,
like waters that fail? (Jeremiah 15:18 ESV)

In the very next line, God tells him to repent, so that he might stand before God.

But given this caution, the psalms encourage a great deal of openness and intimacy even in sharing the painful things of our lives. I think it is one of the ways we cast our anxieties on God. The psalms can teach Christians a great deal about faithful lament.

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