Prayers & Praise: Psalms of Lament
We like to feel like we have everything under control. And messages we glean from culture only add to that pressure. We are used to hearing things such as, “Don’t be such a baby,” “Stop crying,” or “Get your act together.” So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of us tend to clam up, swallow our feelings, and slap a fake smile on our faces when times get tough.
But when you take a look into the Psalms, and peek at the conversations the Psalmists had with God when circumstances were tough, false happiness is not a theme. Instead we find deep, honest outpourings of agony and emotion, admittance of their need for help, and cries for God to come to their rescue.
In Psalm 6:6-7 King David writes,
“I am weary from my groaning;
With my tears I dampen my bed
And drench my couch every night.
My eyes are swollen from grief;
They grow old because of all my enemies.”
We would do well to take note of what King David seemed to understand so deeply: God is big enough to handle our problems and He wants to hear our laments. David is referred to as being a man after God’s own heart, and he is one of the greatest examples we have of someone coming before the Lord in brutal transparency, shouting to bring God’s attention to his troubles, and boldly asking for God to intervene in difficult situations.
We also have permission to open up to God in this way, and Scripture is full of examples confirming that we should bring our laments before the Lord.
But bearing our vulnerable, hurting hearts to God first requires that we admit to ourselves that we don’t have it all together, and that maybe “in our control” is not the best place to try to keep things. In Scripture, when we see someone cry out to God, it is always paired with a plea for help; a desperate request for God to intervene.
And when specifically speaking about Psalms of Lament, we are shown a beautiful pattern to follow while waiting for God’s timing in responding to our prayers and delivering us from a hard spot: We are encouraged to both look back, and to look forward.
The history of God’s miracles, provision and kept promises was a big deal to people in the Bible, and still is for us today. Memory of how God has remained faithful in the past serves as assurance that He will also be faithful in the future, and brings us peace as we wait on the Lord’s timing in the midst of turmoil.
Because of this assurance, we can have anticipation and hope as we look forward to the future, confident that God is fully in control and guiding us with all-knowing wisdom and insight. We look forward to the all of the reasons we will have to praise Him, and are filled with the desire to sing His praises even while still in the midst of hardship.
As we face life’s struggles, let us join with the voices of believers before us in honestly approaching God, boldly crying out for help, remembering His past faithfulness, and singing His praise for all that He has yet to do!
“Why, my soul, are you so dejected?
Why are you in such turmoil?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him,
My Savior and my God.
I am deeply depressed;
Therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan
And the peaks of Hermon,
From Mount Mizar…
The Lord will send his faithful love by day;
His song will be with me in the night
– A prayer to the God of my life.”
Psalm 42:5-6, 8