Getting Real with God
In a previous post, I wrote about how Psalms give us examples of what a personal relationship with God can look like. The 150 Psalms cover the full range of human personal and collective experience.
One category of Psalms, that aren't often referred to are Psalms of Lament. But since our lives are full of downs as well as ups, it is important that we become familiar with these Psalms. They teach us that it is ok to bring our difficult situations and how we feel about them to God - nothing is off limits. They also help us to approach these difficulties in light of who God is. (Psalms of Lament include Ps 13, 17, 22, 44, 77, 90, 109, but there are many more as well)
Here is a link to an article about Psalms of Lament which is well worth reading.
It contains the following overview of Laments:
STRUCTURE OF A LAMENT
A biblical lament cries out to God. This is not an internally focused process of grieving, it is first and foremost a prayer, a conversation. When we further consider the God to whom we cry, this aspect of a lament psalm, brief as it may be (“My God, my God”; Ps. 22) takes on even greater significance. We cry to an omnipotent God, a good and merciful God, a just God, a God who grants us access to himself and invites us into personal relationship with him.
A lament honestly and specifically names a situation or circumstance that is painful, wrong, or unjust—in other words, a circumstance that does not align with God’s character and therefore does not make sense within God’s kingdom. The emotional tone of the complaint varies, depending on the type of lament psalm. It may express sorrow, remorse, weariness, anger, disappointment, or doubt.
A lament expects a response or an answer. It expects that God will be able to do something about the situation. Most often the request sounds like a demand: it is the psalmist’s essential heart-rending cry, “God, do something!”
Expression of trust.
A lament generally includes an explicit expression of trust, sometimes woven through the complaint and request, and other times concluding the psalm with an almost jarring note of praise. Some expressions of trust are such a startling departure from the rest of the psalm (“I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts—men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth,” Ps. 57:4-5) that they seem to sharply divide the psalm into two parts: lament and praise. But to understand biblical lament properly, we must acknowledge that the expression of trust, with all its praise and joy, is part of a psalm of lament.
Biblical lament, then, is an honest cry to a God who is powerful, good, and just—a cry that this situation is not in alignment with God’s person or purposes. It’s a cry that expects an answer from God, and therefore results in hope, trust, and joy rather than despair.
This understanding of lament makes it much easier for us to apply the psalms of lament to our own lives and to the life of our congregation. Indeed, we begin to see that biblical lament is necessary in a world that does not always operate according to God’s purposes.
photo credit: 12/28/15 Complaint Dept via photopin (license)