Are you fed up with covering up feelings of sadness, disappointment, despair, grief, loneliness or loss? Then lamenting is something you need to know about, and something you need to practice. We see many examples of lamenting throughout the Bible, most especially in the Psalms (40 out of 150 of the Psalms could be classed as Psalms of lament), but also other places (for example Lamentations, Micah 7, Luke 19, Mark 15.)
Lamenting is not just about tears or sorrow. Lamenting takes faith. Lamenting is a process that should take us from desperate sorrow and anguish, to our Saviour who promises peace, hope and rest. To lament is to acknowledge our deepest pain and sorrow, while continuing to trust our loving Lord and Saviour.
Here is how we can do this:
Cry out honestly to God.
Psalm 13 begins, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?”
Micah 7v1 says, “What misery is mine!”
These examples do not show people hiding their emotions from God, putting on a stiff upper lip, trying to be strong. These words show what it looks like to be open and real with God.
Is this something you are used to doing? Do you bring your deepest emotions to God? Do you tell him of your bitter disappointment at things you wish had turned out differently? Do you bring your brokenness and tears to God? Or instead, do you gather yourself together and try and bring your sorted self to God? Lamenting gives us opportunity to bring our rawest emotions to God.
Know you will be heard because of the One who has cried out to God for your sake.
This process of expressing our deepest emotions to God was shared by our Lord Jesus who walked this path before us. In Mark 15 we see Jesus’ bitter cry as He quotes Psalm 22 on the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cries out to God in desperation. He knows He has been abandoned by God, and He feels and expresses all the intense emotion and distress that goes with this. But it was His rejection by His Father on the cross, that bought us peace with God. Taking the punishment for sin that we deserved, Jesus was abandoned by God so that we need never be. This lament, written first in the Psalms then quoted by Jesus, is a lament that we can know we will never need to cry. When we find ourselves in the darkest places, we can look back to the cross and be certain that God will always be there to hear us. Jesus was forsaken by God, so that we would never be.
Do you know this to be true? When you cry to God do you do so certain that God will never turn you away, because Jesus was turned away on your behalf? Do you fear taking your distress and sorrow to God because you think He will not want to hear it? However deep our distress and sorrow, when we cry out to God, when we lament to Him, we can be certain we will be heard because of the One who cried out to God for our sake.
Put your hope in the Lord’s unfailing love.
There are certain things we don’t often put together. One of those unlikely pairs would be feeling deep sorrow and still knowing hope for the future. There is a place for expressing deep distress, grief and sorrow to God, while also being able to hope in the Lord. One does not rule out the other! This can be seen in many of the lament Psalms. For example, Psalm 130 starts with “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord.” But later in the Psalm the writer says, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Psalm 6 in another example of this. David begins by asking “Will you forget me forever?” but he ends the Psalm by saying “I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”
Jesus has made it possible for us to approach God in deep distress AND at the same time know the hope of our salvation. Here are some words from Stuart Townend’s song “There is a hope”:
“There is a hope that lifts my weary head, a consolation strong against despair, that when the world has plunged me in its deepest pit, I find the Saviour there!”
If you would say that you are in the pit described in Townend’s song, do you know that it is also possible to feel near to God? The laments we read in the Bible show us it is possible to feel deep sorrow and anguish, while also knowing confidence in the hope Jesus has bought us. Sometimes our hope will remain strong while our struggles continue.
At other times we might need to use the laments in the Bible to verbalise how we should feel or want to feel, in our darkest times. The variety of lament Psalms we read in the Bible show us this is ok too. Use the lament Psalms as you need to.
Maybe you are reading this, but wouldn’t describe yourself as desperate, or anguished, but have found this last year exhausting and draining. You may be struggling with disappointment, loneliness, weariness or just a real lack of joy. If that is you, I encourage you to seek out the Psalms of lament in the Bible, and allow yourself to express your feelings to God, and seek the peace and hope He can bring.
- Emma Howard, Church Member