Sometimes I’m tempted to hold back my toughest questions from God. I convince myself that if I don’t say things aloud then maybe they won’t be true or maybe they’ll go away.
Or I tell myself that if I really told God what I truly thought, what I was really wrestling with, somehow He couldn’t take it.
None of these beliefs are true or healthy.
We serve a God who wants us to give ourselves – our whole selves – to Him. This includes our doubts and determinations, our fear and frustrations, our aches and aspirations, our hollow as well as hallowed spaces.
One of the most treasured places in the Bible where this wild honesty with God appears is in the Psalms.
The Book of Psalms is divided into five books, each ending with a doxology or concluding word of praise. Psalm 1 offers the introduction, and Psalm 150 is the concluding doxology for the entire collection.
Psalms contains an eclectic collection of 150 songs, prayers, and poems. Some were written by David, but most were penned by a band of anonymous poets and musicians. Some psalms were used in worship serves as a type of liturgy (Psalms 2 and 50), others expressed thanksgiving or praise (Psalms 18; 107; 138), while still others celebrated the saving actions of God from the past and His promises and faithfulness (Psalm 131).
But some of the most vivid and starkly honest psalms are the laments. In a lament, emotions run lava hot in all directions. Feelings of being distraught, in anguish, fear, and in pain all appear in less than three breaths.
The shocking statements and tough questions found in lament psalms aren’t intended to sanctify our vindictive thoughts or bad behavior. Rather they invite us to come honestly as we are into the presence of God and experience transformation.
In laying hold of what we really feel, we can seek healing and redemption.
That’s the key element to a good lament. While the entry may express a wide range of emotions to God, a subtle transformation often takes place in the psalmist’s heart: beginning at the low point of suffering but ending with renewed faith in God. The psalmist reorients his life Godward through lamenting. Starting with one perspective, the psalmist ends with a completely different outlook.
The crux of a lament isn’t about letting everything hang out with God or embracing a good cry, but embracing the work of reflection and soul-searching, a kind of spiritual self-examination. The heart shift that takes place during a lament isn’t an apple-pie-in-the-sky kind of hopefulness, but a deep conviction in the One who provides deliverance.
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