Do We Need to Include the Lament in Our Sunday Worship Services?

Do We Need to Include the Lament in Our Sunday Worship Services?

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.

Do we skip Psalm 83:1 so we can sing Psalm 84:1-2? Click To Tweet

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.)

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Psalm 81-85, and today’s post is on Psalm 83:1 and Psalm 84:1-2.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

4 Comments

  • Graham Rutter – Lecturer in Old Testament at St Mellitus, Assistant Minister, sometime archaeologist
    Graham Rutter Posted July 10, 2016 4:13 am

    Definitely! I was preaching about this a couple of weeks ago, using Jeremiah’s lament (Jeremiah 20) as a starting point. I know that some people found it helpful to be given ‘permission’ to lament:
    https://0lem.wordpress.com/2016/07/04/doubt-and-lament/

    I think Kari Jobe’s song ‘Steady your heart’ is a good lament song, while Matt Redman’s ‘Blessed be your Name’ is an almost-lament (!) worship song, but I don’t know many more…

    Thanks for your post!

    • Peter DeHaan – Peter DeHaan is a published author, blogger, commercial freelance writer, and periodical publisher.
      Peter DeHaan Posted July 11, 2016 11:20 am

      Graham, I’m not familiar with the first song, but “Blessed Be Your Name” does take a curious turn toward the end that I have always connected with.

      Thanks for pointing that out!

  • Robert Kersten
    Robert Kersten Posted May 4, 2021 1:27 pm

    I believe the reason there are so few songs of lament sung these days in church is because many Christians are operating in a theology of glory rather than the theology of the cross. Many are led to believe that after coming to Christ, life will become so much more easy, with guaranteed prosperity. Few are warned that the process of sanctification will sometimes be painful and that faith in Christ means we just enlisted in an on going spiritual battle that will last our entire lives. An example of a hymn of lament is the Lutheran hymn: From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee.

    • Peter Lyle DeHaan – Peter Lyle DeHaan is an author, blogger, and publisher.
      Peter DeHaan Posted May 4, 2021 2:09 pm

      Robert, you are so right!

      Thanks for taking time to comment.

      Interestingly, I just wrote about “easy versus hard” in a chapter for my upcoming book, Love Is Patient (based on 1 and 2 Corinthians).

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