Sometimes life is rough. In fact, sometimes life is more than rough, it’s bleak. Life can feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. We could talk for hours on how to work ourselves out of such a place. One thing we can do when we are feeling this way is cry out to God.
To some the idea of crying out to God sounds sinful. It feels like complaining, and we know that complaining is a sin. Scripture has given us a pattern to follow after. It’s the book of Lamentations. What is a lament? It’s an emotional expression of our pain.
It is not just one book of the Bible that is dedicated to lamenting. Over one third of the psalms are laments. In fact there are more psalms that lament than there are psalms that praise. Most of them were written by David himself.
Look at Psalms 6. Notice how David addresses God. It may seem like these would be things that we would not be allowed to say to God. Not only does David say them, but God allows them to be part of Scripture. Recently Bono from U2 said he loved the Psalms and believed that Christians should be more real when talking to God and singing to Him. He has written several songs reflecting the Psalms, such as his song “40” which he patterned after Psalm 40. While Bono is not David, I think he is right.
In fact, recently I talked to our band at church about this. Too often we can be guilty of singing only upbeat songs when we are praising God. Using the Psalms are a guideline, we should also be singing laments. This allows us to call out to God when we are feeling broken or in our time of despair.
What are laments made up of? In Scripture, they start with disorientation and move to orientation to God. Laments are often poetry. Poetry speaks more to the heart than the mind (but still uses Biblical truth). Because they are poetry, they are written as an illustration to guide us, not as facts or rules to observe. They often go from sorrow to praise.
Let’s look at the structure of most Old Testament laments. This is not a hard and fast rule, but is often what you will find. It will start with a plea to God, then complaints, confessions, frustration with an enemy (often anonymous), then confidence in praise to God. In Psalm 6 it’s invocation (verse 1), plea (2), complaint (3), confession (4-7), curse (8), confidence in God and praise (9-10).
Recently I heard someone say that he loved art because as a non-artist, he was able to express himself through someone else’s art. I believe this is part of why God gave us laments in the Bible. So we can express our laments through the writings of the biblical authors. If you are struggling right now, and need to cry out to God, let me suggest two things.
First, read through the book of Lamentations, or the laments in the book of Psalms (see below). Second, take time to write your lament to God. You can follow the structure suggested in the previous paragraphs and read Psalms 6 as a guide. This will help you as you express yourself to God by crying out to Him.
Psalm Chapters with Laments: 3-7, 9-10, 12-14, 17, 22, 25-28, 31, 35-36, 38-39, 41-44, 51, 53-61, 64, 69-71, 74, 77, 79-80, 82-83, 85-86, 88, 90, 94, 102, 109, 137, 139-143.
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, Pa 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.