Psalms of Lament

Lament isn’t a word commonly used in our time and culture. It means “A passionate expression of grief or sorrow.”  In the Psalms – and in our lives with God – this can take the form of wailing, moaning, weeping, crying, sobbing and even complaining. The lament is the psalmist’s cry when in great distress and he has nowhere to turn but to God. Stephen Eckert did a superb job explaining and giving structure to these Psalms, their history and what they are. He encouraged everyone to dig into these powerful Psalms personally this week in order to experience them for yourself and see how God might use them in your life. This is your opportunity to do that, via Ten Minutes With God!  

Have you ever spent time realizing we serve a personal God who knows us at our deepest levels and wants us to be completely open and honest with him?  If we hide from God, we are, in effect, hiding from ourselves and cannot live into the full potential God has for us. Why not take your WHOLE self into the presence of God this week as we explore the concept of lament, and the Psalms of lament?  If the Psalmists can be that transparent with God, why do we think we can’t?  Stephen pointed out this is one of the primary reasons the Psalms of lament are so important, i.e. knowing we serve a personal, loving God who wants to hear our complaints and understands our laments. These Psalms are an encouragement and model for us. Maybe its even an invitation to deepen your prayer life?  Could it be your image of God is somehow blocking your honestly with God? Casting ALL our anxieties on him, because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7) brings more freedom in our lives and our relationship with God, not more burden or fear.   

By way of personal testimony, one of the biggest spiritual growth spurts and “mile markers” for me (Jan Hassler) was when I got completely honest with God about what was going on and how I felt about it. It takes some honesty and vulnerability to enter into the Psalms of Lament and this type of prayer. It involves exploring the real world with Jesus rather than just the Hallmark Card form of Jesus. As I got open and honest with God,  it was a profound experience knowing – beyond just theological information and head knowledge – that I was loved JUST AS I WAS. Even during a season of strife and complaint and even darkness. Jesus was personally present even during my ugliest times that I was embarrassed about!  It was a turning point for me to feel safe bringing anything to Jesus and not waiting until I perceived I had it all packaged in a pretty box with a bow on top. Until my personal experience of “fussing” at God and lamenting, I had somewhat of a surface faith relationship. Getting honest with myself and God grew and deepened my faith journey tremendously.  Are you ready for a more authentic and honest relationship with God? Are you willing to be open and honest with him this week?  

INVITATION: Perhaps before even beginning in the Psalms of lament, you might take some prayer time to think about what images of God come to mind for you. Try to come up with three to five and write them down. Now, explore each of these. Do they seem to have a predominantly positive or negative sense to them?  Pray through why this might be.  Ask God to go with you and you dive into the Psalms this week.   

MONDAY:  Psalm 3 & Psalm 5: In Psalm 3, the psalmist faces danger and adversity, but reminds himself that the Lord is a shield surrounding him; he sleeps and awakes in the assurance he is sustained by God. What images of God’s presence might comfort you?  Psalm 5 is a reminder to begin the day in prayer – if only for a few minutes we join this psalmist in “waiting” for God. How might you begin that practice in your life? Some people find it helpful to attach a short prayer time to an already established ritual.  Maybe brewing the coffee or brushing your teeth. Could you turn your commute time into personal time with God?  

TUESDAY: Psalm 6 & Psalm 12:  In Psalm 6 we encounter constant pain and the utter loneliness of grief. These are real life situations and pain we can deal with openly before God. There is no need to deny or sugar coat these emotions in prayer, because God already knows what is in your heart. Are you trying to hide any emotions of anguish, despair or fear from God? Might you be angry with God? Can you be honest with him this week about those things? Psalm 12 is one that might be helpful as a model in prayer about the state of our culture, our city, our town, our nation. Have you ever thought to bring those issues you have no control over into the presence of Jesus? Sometimes it is helpful to pour out your frustrations, and then ask God to give you HIS heart for such things. Sometimes we get ourselves worked up over things God may be standing by to comfort us about. Can you let go of such things in the presence of Jesus this week?  

WEDNESDAY: Psalm 17 and Psalm 26:  This psalmist is by no means timid in praying, “Keep me the apple of your eye.” Henri Nouwen writes, “the great spiritual call of the Beloved Children of God is to pull their brokenness away from the shadow of the curse and put it under the light of the blessing.”  What is your honest desire of God and his movement in your life?  Have you prayed for that?  Psalm 26 focuses attention away from the everyday world and on our covenant relationship with God. Through this prayer we are confronted with the reality we bear responsibility for our moral and religious integrity, and we are challenged to extend God permission to test that integrity. Are you honest and vulnerable enough to allow God to “search you and know your heart” in this way? (Psalm 139).  He knows your heart anyway…….yet invites you into a loving relationship in spite of some darkness in our hearts and any of our past behaviors.  

THURSDAY: Psalm 22 & Psalm 54:  Psalm 22 is a hard psalm about terrible suffering and feeling forsaken.  Have you ever felt that way? Do you think Jesus ever felt that way during his life on earth? Can you take these hard and vulnerable emotions to God this week?  Maybe you can try writing your own Psalm of lament? Psalm 54 is a great example of holding nothing back from the Maker of the universe….even when God seems silent. Do you pray in faith believing God hears you – no matter if you sense a response or not? Could it be you are putting expectations on your prayers?  Does God seem too big or important to listen to you? Try bringing even your small cares to him today.

FRIDAY: Psalm 42/43 (often thought to be a single Psalm) & Psalm 44: Psalm 42 & 43 talk about a powerful longing that displaces all others. As your desire for God grows and becomes stronger, your desire for things of this world will grow less important and become small in your life. Many authors refer to this is “letting go of attachments” that do not help our spiritual lives and relationship with God. What are you thirsty for? Will you consider praying that your desires will become God’s desires?  As you pray with this Psalm, are there any things you sense the Lord asking you to hold looser or even let go of? Psalm 44 is a recounting of a spiritual journey. Have you ever recorded some highlights of your spiritual journey with God? It is powerful to see his faithfulness woven into our lives.  

SATURDAY:  Psalm 69, Psalm 83 & Psalm 109: Psalm 69 deals with waiting – even in suffering or times of unfulfillment when God seems absent. However, it is also a waiting with expectation for signs of God. How might this Psalm speak into your life right now? Psalm 83 and 109 both deal with times of restlessness with God and what may – or may not – be going on.  Perhaps in your life, perhaps in the world.

How has this week’s study helped you become more honest with yourself and with God?