We come again this week, reeling from another tragedy and find ourselves overcome with grief, anxiety, and anger at the latest brutal act of violence in our midst. It just seems too much! Have you found yourself asking the question, “Where is God?” Each time something like this happens, we quickly offer up prayers for those affected, but do those prayers seems to be falling on deaf ears?
Just like you, I struggle with this question. Today, I would like to offer just one way to work through our communal grief. In the Bible, the book of Psalms is the songbook of Israel; songs used in worship. As we look at the 150 psalms that are included in our Bible, the largest number of them are defined as Psalms of Lament. A Psalm of Lament contains words that helps us name our grief and the corresponding emotions that come with it. It doesn’t whitewash our anger and anxiety, but instead puts these honest emotions in words directed to God.
A Psalm of Lament has several parts – the Address, where we call out to God; the Complaint, where we name the situation that is wrong or unjust; the Request, where we tell God what we need – God, DO something; and, the Expression of Trust, that is often woven throughout the lament and sometimes found at the end.
Biblical lament is an honest cry to a God who is powerful, good, and just—a cry that states “this situation is not in alignment with God’s purposes.” It’s a cry that expects an answer from God, and therefore results in hope, trust, and joy rather than despair. Are you crying this week? I encourage you to look at the Psalms and follow this pattern as you work through your grief from the Las Vegas tragedy, some of the natural tragedies that we’ve seen in the past few weeks, or perhaps your own grief at a personal situation. This is how we cry to God!
I share with you an example from Psalm 22 of these different sections of lament. As you pray this week, offer your lament to God. We will do the same together in worship this week.
“My God, my God” (v. 1).
“Why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. . . . My mouth is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death” (vv. 1-2, 15).
“Lord, do not be far from me. . . . Come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen” (vv. 19-21).
Expression of Trust
“Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our ancestors put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. . . Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me feel secure on my mother’s breast. . . . I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. . . . For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help” (vv. 3-4, 9, 22, 24).