From Lament to Praise
June 12, 2023
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?…But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”
Psalm 13:1, 5
Despite the numerous psalms of praise, there are many other psalms that express different feelings; feelings of despair, pain, and even anger at God. These are known as the psalms of lament. Sometimes reading these vulnerable psalms can be shocking. It can feel wrong to use such harsh language with God, yet the presence of lament psalms and lament books like Lamentations, reveals the important place lament has in our relationship with God.
Ellen F Davis writes about lament in her book Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament. She explains that the ability to speak honestly is required for close relationships. Lament is one way that we speak honestly with God about our emotions. Through laying our pain at God’s feet, we assume that he cares that we are hurting. That’s a big deal. The creator of the universe who is above all things, wants to hear our honest emotions because he cares when we are in pain. The entire process of lament is an important part of our relationship with God. As Davis says, “When you lament in good faith, opening yourself to God honestly and fully-no matter what you have to say-then you are beginning to clear the way for praise.”
Psalm 13 gives the perfect example of this. At the beginning the author is in deep anguish. He feels forgotten by God and completely alone. He asks the question “how long”. He wonders how long he will have to endure pain, how long he will feel as if God is not listening? His sentiment is relatable. Perhaps there have been times when you have suffered physical, mental or emotional anguish and have asked “how long”.
The author continues honestly expressing his emotions and in verse 3 he cries out. Even though he feels like God isn’t listening, he pleas for God’s help. He asks for “light in his eyes,” for God to shine into his darkness and help him to see more clearly. He is seeking deliverance from his despair.
The psalmist doesn’t suggest that things improve, yet by the end, the mood has shifted. The passage ends in praise. In verses 5 and 6 the psalmist expresses trust in God’s love for him and the promise of salvation. Even in his darkest moments, he remembers God’s goodness. In doing so he shifts from despair to praise, despite his circumstances.
Being honest with God through lament opens space for him to work in our hearts. Psalm 13 and others, remind us that trust in our Lord is not contingent on circumstances. We praise God because he is sovereign and faithful. As Psalm 13 says, we too can “trust in (his) unfailing love”.
As you go through your week take a moment to consider the place of lament in your own life. Are there things you have hesitated to bring before God because they were too honest or brutal? Take a moment to be completely honest with God, expressing both your joys and pain.
Heavenly Father, We thank you for caring about our pain and for listening to us. Give us the strength to be vulnerable and honest with you and as we do work in our hearts. Remind us of your love and faithfulness so that in all circumstances we will trust in your goodness. We pray this in your son’s name, Amen.
Blessings in your week,
Spiritual Care Coordinator
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