Catherine Gregg, Christian Formation and Direction Ministries
Learning to Lament:
The “Disorientation” Psalms
“Do not withhold your mercy from me, 0 Lord;
For troubles without number surround me;
My sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
And my heart fails me.” Ps. 40:11-12
Christians seldom sing in the minor key. Our fear of pain, sorrow and suffering leads many of us to ignore, deny or pretend that because Jesus is risen, there is no longer a place for lament in our lives. The assumption that trust (“you just need to trust God”) precludes struggle, or that faith erases doubt, or that hope means that there is no despair, is overly simplistic.
Biblical wisdom literature validates our experience of pain and gives us words to express to God our conflict, sorrow, sin, loneliness and trials. Lament—crying out to God with our doubts and our incriminations of him and others, bringing a complaint against him—is the very context for surrender and restoration. Surrender—the firming of our heart over to him, asking for mercy, receiving his terms for restoration—is impossible without battle. Our battle is not over with conversion! Rather, as we acknowledge the pain in our lives, our lament is a battle cry against God that paradoxically voices a heart of desire for his saving action.
Read Psalm 64, 44, 109 or another lament passage. Read it aloud slowly, line by line. Reflect on ways that you identify with the writer. What is there in your life that has been lost (external situations such as a job, a relationship, or internal issues such as hope, faith or love)? Pray the words of the scriptures as a means of bringing congruence before God between your own heart and the psalmist’s experience. It’s okay if you don’t feel happy or hopeful at the end of this time! Deep lament is an expression of deep pain, which doesn’t often resolve quickly. You may stay with a particular passage for weeks or even months before you experience words of comfort which the Lord may be speaking to you in response to your cry.
Alternatively, write a personal psalm of lament. [See “Lament: Getting Honest With God”]