Reflecting on Laments

By Carol J. H. Kobulnicky

I spend quite a bit of time in Psalms.  God uses that book in particular to remind me of God’s character as well as how I am not alone in what I experience in this broken world.  That book contains a fair number of laments in which the psalmist cries out to God for Him to act.  (See also Lamentations of course.)

Included in Psalms are statements that are untrue of God as well as questioning of God’s actions and motives.  On the surface, this could seem heretical, but the psalmist does not make these statements or ask these questions in a vacuum.  They are made within the context of the entire psalm, and in some cases, within the context of multiple psalms.  We, of course, can read them within the context of the Bible in its entirety.  Desperate exclamations and questioning is juxtaposed with reflection upon who God really is: just, compassionate, and able.  The questioning of God’s true character and action is intense.  An example is found in Psalm 77:7-9, where it is written:

“Will the Lord reject forever and never again show favor? 

Has his faithful love ceased forever? 

Is his promise at an end for all generations?

Has God forgotten to be gracious?

Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

The psalmist does not leave it there.  He goes on to intentionally remember the deeds of the Lord that show Him to be faithful.  The psalmist chooses to meditate on all of God’s mighty works (v. 12).  He professes God’s holiness (v. 13), acknowledges His role as redeemer (v. 15), declares His absolute power over the earth (v. 16-18) and reassures himself and us that God is leading us in this world even when we cannot see Him (v. 19).  

When we find ourselves grieving this broken world, we may need to lament and cry out to God.  In the height of great emotions, we may ask or say some pretty heretical things, but I’m convinced God understands. One writer suggests, “God welcomes our lament to help us hold to him. He knows that our tendency is either to pretend everything is okay (while we suffocate on the inside), or walk away from God, believing he doesn’t care.”  Indeed, lamenting “invite(s) God into our pain, so that we can know his comfort” (Risner, VR. Laments Help Us Hold Onto Him, Desiring God article, Nov 2, 2016; URL: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/lament-helps-us-hold-on-to-him).

We need to follow up any lament (spoken or unspoken) with remembering God’s faithfulness, holiness, mercy and power.  We are not limited to the scriptures to see it.  We can look at all of the ways God has provided for us as individuals, our families, our communities, and yes, our nation.  

Lord, we are struggling with the brokenness of this world.  There is so much pain and hurting, and so much that can unsettle us.  We sometimes ask, “Where are you?”  Yet we know You promised to never leave us or forsake us.  We must be intentional to remember Your goodness, faithfulness, mercy and power!  You are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  You are our Good Shepherd, You lead us to green pastures, beside quiet waters.  Restore us, O Lord. In Your mercy, Amen.

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