FREE THEME WEEK – Psalms!
This week we are looking at seven different types of psalms. The first was a psalm of wisdom and the second was a royal psalm. The third type of psalm is a lament psalm.
Life is not always easy. I know that’s a real shocker for most of you but it is true. Bad things happen. People fail tests. Relationships go sour. People get hurt physically, emotionally, spiritually. Sometimes people suffer in unimaginable ways and sometimes people die. Sometimes it’s hard to find the words to express our pain during difficult times. Sometimes this is true for individuals and sometimes it’s true from communities.
There are musical styles that express pain. The blues are all about coping with pain. Taylor Swift has written a song about every breakup she’s ever had. Play many a country music song backwards and you get your truck back, your dog back and your woman back.
God doesn’t expect us to ignore pain or paint a pretend smile on our face and act like everything’s great when it isn’t. Fortunately, God provides us a language to help us work through pain. Psalms of lament. The Bible is full of psalms of lament both for individuals and for communities. The book of Lamentations is an entire book of laments after the fall of Jerusalem and their exile into Babylon.
Psalm 22 is an example of a psalm of lament. I won’t include the whole psalm here but I’ll share enough for you to get the idea:
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
This is a person who is clearly in pain. Their pain is multiplied by the fact that they feel that God is no-where to be found. “God, where are you?” “God I’m hurting.” “God can’t you see how badly I’m suffering here?” “God, why aren’t you listening to my cry?” “God, I need you, O I need you!”
If these words sound familiar to you, it may be because these are the words that Jesus cried out while he was being crucified. Jesus suffered every way that we suffer and his greatest suffering came when he felt God’s absence. There are times in our lives when God seems so close and so real and those times are wonderful. But there are also times when God feels so very far away. Psalms of lament take our feelings of suffering, of abandonment, of God’s absence and help us to give words to them. It also helps us to know that we are not alone in feeling alone.
9Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.
The one who is suffering here pleads their case before God. “You’ve been there my whole life” “I’ve trusted you since I was a baby” “God, come here… I’m scared, I’m all alone.” Whether it is physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual pain or often a combination of all three, it hurts when you feel like you’re all alone. The Psalms of lament help us to find the words to cry out to God out of a mixture of faith and fear.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!
Even though his situation feels hopeless… even though it seems like she is doomed, yet there is hope. As bad as it feels, as alone as she seems, as desperate and lost and needy and broken, there is hope that one day things will be better, that one day there will be a chance to testify about God’s faithfulness.
Bad thing happen to God’s people too. We don’t have to pretend that everything’s great when it’s not. Don’t just read the happy psalms. Just like Jesus committed Psalm 22 to memory so that when he was at the point of deepest agony he had the words to pray his pain to God, learn to pray the psalms of lament, both for yourself and for those you love who may also feel alone in their suffering.
You can read the whole beautiful Psalm of lament here – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+22&version=NIV