Psalms Of Lament

It is written:

“Why do You stand afar off, O LORD?Why do You hide in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1)


“How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?  How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2)


“O God, why have You cast us off forever? Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep of Your pasture?” (Psalm 74:1)


“You caused my friends and loved ones to leave me. Now darkness is my closest friend.” (Psalm 88:18)

Many people are surprised to learn that the Psalms are full of anger and complaint being voiced by God’s people….against God!

One of the great things about the Bible is that it reminds us of how God’s people may safely express their anger and confusion to God. Quite often in life, we do not understand why God does what He does, allows what He allows, and refuses to answer the prayers of His people in difficult and trying circumstances. When we hurt, God wants us to speak our hearts pain to Him.

“The Psalms also help us explore the unthinkable. How can we voice anger, anxiety, our deepest fears and darkest thoughts to God? Psalms drill down into the marrow, getting to the core issues of life. Through the Psalms, God provides therapy for these intense and sometimes painful issues. They help put us in touch with buried issues. I have discovered that the Psalms often surface enormously significant feelings I did not even know were there. Or even more to the point, the Psalms unearth things we desperately need to face—wounds that will not be healed unless they are surfaced and dealt with carefully. We know they are in there somewhere, but we don’t want to deal with them. They seem too painful or too frightening or too threatening to face. As we move through the Psalms, however, some of them take us into that unthinkable emotional geography we might otherwise avoid. They lead us to process painful feelings we might otherwise stuff down inside. This processing releases healing into our souls….The Psalms give us permission to let God know when we feel abandoned or mistreated. Even Jesus himself gives us permission to pour out our grievances to God, to express negative feelings of being abandoned by God. The cross is not the only place we see Jesus praying lament or protest prayers. When Jesus had come back to Jerusalem during the Passover, he went with his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane, just across from a city gate. In the garden Jesus pleaded with his Father, “Let this cup pass from me.” He was talking about the cup of suffering on the cross. In essence, he was asking God to find another way. He went through the sense of abandonment one feels when our prayers do not seem to be answered. This becomes crystal clear when Jesus, hanging on the cross in the gathering darkness, cries out with a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” At that horrendous moment, Jesus was praying the words from Psalm 22: 1–3…What we are hearing from Jesus is a prayer of deep lament. And in these moments, with these words, Christ did a great service to the world. These words, welling up out of his deepest agony, give us permission to cry out as well. Our “make me happy” culture programs us to avoid painful or negative feelings. But serious downsides come with this kind of avoidance. Mental health professionals have long since discovered that swallowed painful feelings—such as anger, fear, and shame—usually produce even more negative consequences. These feelings frequently come out in some destructive form, such as clinical depression, substance abuse, or sexual acting out. The Psalms are not about stuffing or denying buried issues. Perhaps this is why looking at the Psalms—or any Scripture—from a moralistic or legalistic perspective drains the life and pursuit of God out of those coming from these perspectives. Psalms are not to-do lists or even not-to-do lists for entrance into heaven. Neither are the Psalms pure venting. Venting alone—particularly the kind that diminishes other people or God—can make our problems seem larger than life and spread the stress to others. Rather than stuffing or venting, we’re instructed to pray to God. The Psalms give us a praying voice that is not stuffing, not venting, but something much more. Reading, praying, singing, memorizing, and ministering the Psalms gives us an emotional and spiritual health that helps us deal with the dark side of our hearts. God knew this before the Psalms were ever voiced….Approximately seventy percent of the recorded Psalms in the Old Testament are psalms of complaint, lament, or imprecation, which means vengeance. By praying these Psalms we lay our stuff honestly at God’s feet. God is big enough to let us beat on his chest. We need not pretend we have no negative, angry feelings toward God. In fact, he already knows we have those feelings anyway. Rather, we have both permission and language to open our hearts and show rage, disappointment, and anger at God.” (Lynn Anderson, Talking Back To God: Speaking Your Heart To God Through The Psalms, 65-69 (Kindle Edition); Abilene, TX; Leafwood Publishers)

The Psalms remind us that even when we don’t always understand God or His ways, we can learn to trust Him.

Psalm 131:1-3-LORD, my heart is not haughty, Nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me. 2  Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, Like a weaned child with his mother; Like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3  O Israel, hope in the LORD From this time forth and forever.

Trust in the Lord.

Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑