A Song of Lament
Text: Psalm 80 | Listen to Message
“God, where are you? Are you paying attention? Do you even care?”
“How long, O Lord? When are you ever going to do something about this pain?”
“God, why are you doing this to me? It’s not fair.”
“God, I know you’re not a bully, but it sure feels like it today.”
These statements are all examples of lament. A lament is weeping with words. It’s an expression to God of grief, fear, doubt, even anger. It’s a complaint, a howl, a cry, a protest. A lament typically uses questions or accusations to imply that God is not as good as he could be.
While this may sound like a wildly inappropriate way for a Christian to talk to God, do you know that roughly one-third of the Psalms are laments? That’s right: Holy Spirit inspired writers complained to and about God over and over again within the pages of sacred Scripture!
Apparently, God intends for us to find in his Word a language to express our frustrated faith.
Both of those words are important: frustrated and faith.
On the one hand, it simply won’t do to pretend like we’re not sometimes (often?) frustrated with God and the hand he’s dealt us. Even when we don’t say how exasperated or discouraged we are (because we think we know better than to talk this way to God), God sees our hearts. He knows all of our griefs, our questions, our objections, and our fears. There’s nothing wrong with humbly acknowledging to God what he already knows to be true. In fact, this is a big part of what it means to be “poor in spirit.”
On the other hand, we must hold on to faith. A lament is not just sad or angry. It’s not a rant that trails off in doubt or despair. Though a lament may contain all of these elements, by definition a lament leads to some expression like “ . . . but I trust you, even though this hurts right now.”
As we watch and wait for Christ to return to make all things new, we ought to make lament a normal and regular part of our conversation with God. The reality is we live in a broken world. The Curse affects us negatively every single day. We experience the painful consequences of sin – both our own and those of others against us. We deal with unwanted thoughts, emotions, and habits. Bad things happen. Many of the good things we desire never materialize.
So what do we do with our frustration? Stuff it? Clam up? Or do we give ourselves over to the catharsis of blowing up and venting it? No, lament is neither suppressing nor sinfully expressing our feelings. It is questioning without quitting. It is protest without pride. It is complaining with conviction. It is frustrated faith.
So here’s what you do the next time you’re experiencing that sadness, doubt, fear, or anger that won’t go away simply because you prayed about it:
1. Address God directly. Who is it you’re praying to? Is he your Father? Is he the Good Shepherd? Is he the Lord of armies? Is he El Shaddai – the all-powerful God? Is he the Savior? What is he like? What has he done? What has he promised yet to do?
2. Express your complaint. Be specific. What’s going on in your life that has you upset? How do you feel about it? What does it make you think about God?
3. Make your petition. Again, be specific. What are you asking God to do? What do you want him to remember? What do you wish he would restore? How do you want to experience the joy of his salvation right now?
4. Choose hope. Let your grief, your doubt, your fear, and your anger melt as you rehearse the wonders of God’s grace. Confess how you feel but then lead your heart to profess something like “ . . . but I trust you, Father.” Ask God to give you the faith, hope, and love to persevere.