Expressions of grief and sorrow abound in the Psalms but the church has forgotten how to lament
In the churches I have attended throughout my life and visited in the past few years (nearly one hundred) I don’t remember singing songs of lament. We laud God the Father, we express love to Jesus and give thanks for his gift of life, and we invite the Holy Spirit to guide us. In fact we call our modern choruses, praise choruses. How about a lament chorus? I suspect it wouldn’t fit our expectations, at least not in middleclass churches in the United States.
Yet laments occur in the Bible, especially the Psalms. These raw, honest, almost accusatory complaints, resonate with many as the Psalms become their go to section of the Bible during times of need.
Psalm 83 is one example. It opens with three heart-ripping pleas: God I beg you to speak to me, to hear me, and to come close (Psalm 83:1). We’ve all been there, when God seems distant. Some people call these seasons their desert place, their wilderness. They go to the Psalms to give voice to the angst their heart cannot find words to express.
Yet today’s church music and Christian radio largely ignores this reality in their onslaught of feel-good, optimistic, lift-up-your-hands praise choruses. Instead our songwriters and worship leaders go forward one chapter and write about Psalm 84:1-2 to produce a foot-stomping, heart-pounding anthem. And that’s what we sing at church – even when our heart is in a different place.
We will do well to embrace the lament, not to replace our praise, but to balance it.
What is your favorite Psalm of lament? Can you think of a song of lament? (I’m sure there are some, but I can’t recall any.)