Lament is Worship
Lament, a word that we do not use much in our modern vernacular.
“Lament” is a passionate expression of grief or loss. It is the deepest cry from a pain filled heart. A cry for help, relief, someone to notice and to care.
It is a part of the human condition. Yes, it is part of being a Christian.
I have spent most of my 50 years in one church or another. Somewhere along that time I moved to another evangelical tradition from where I started. I have visited worship services from different backgrounds. I consider myself an observer of the modern evangelical movement.
I have noticed something. It is something of an extreme. Churches tend to be either highly what I call “Happy/Clappy” or they are rather dour and ultra-reserved, almost showing no emotion at all in an attempt to sanctify the service.
It my humble opinion, both are equally dangerous to the life of the Christian. Life in in Jesus is not a promise that everything will be “happy/clappy”. We have not been promises butterflies and puppy dogs. And every worship service may not be a happy/clappy time. If it is, then it is just a cover up, while at the same time providing no place for those facing deep depression.
At the same time, we are not meant to live all our lives with long faces – just enduring until the Lord returns, or, at least until he takes us home.
This summer I will be preaching some of the Psalms. We don’t have 150 weeks in such a season to do this, so I am endeavoring to simply get us to return to the Psalms and consider the various “types” of Psalms. There is a Psalm for every situation that brings us either happiness and bliss or pain and trouble.
Lament Psalms are one expression. Lament is a form of worship.
Consider these words. Penned by King David – under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 13:1–2 (NKJV)
1How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
David’s cry was “How Long, O Lord.” He felt abandoned by God. He had a bout with the very real experience of every believer at some point, the paradox of the hiddenness of God. The idea that since God cannot be seen, or felt, he can seem like He is playing hard to get.
His cry is deep. His will is fixed. His desire is focused. This is the beginnings of worship. In the struggle of living (probably written during the 10 years he was evading the insane King Saul), David felt like evil was winning. Trouble was going to win. He was going to be the collateral in a holy war against God by the Devil. God’s promises to him that he would be king did not look like they were going to come to fruition.
Can I give you some pastoral advise? Know that God is big enough to handle your questioning: “How long Lord are you going to let this continue?” Or, even simple declarative statements like “I’ve had enough Lord.”
Know that your conversing with him is healthy. We have to take our troubles to someone. The creator of the entire universe is the best place. It truly is a cathartic experience. It is focused lament to our Holy God. It, is a form of worship.
Later in this Psalm David has a resolve that bubbles up within him.
Psalm 13:5–6 (NKJV)
5 But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
Remember, God has not failed you yet. It isn’t about to start today. You believe that Jesus is your Savior – then, loved one, you are saved. From what? The wrath to come. You are on a sure path to be with Jesus for all eternity. That trajectory is not going to be deviated from.
Meanwhile he comes to us. In word. In quiet prayer. In fellowship with other struggling travelers (i.e. the church). In his ordinances. In his working everything out according to His good purpose and pleasure.
So, lament. Let it out. Tell it to Jesus. Allow him to listen and respond.