How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long must I bear this pain in my soul, and live with sorrow all the day? How long will fear rule my life?
Notice my heart and answer me, O my God; enlighten me, lest I walk as one dead to life;
Lest my ego fears say, “we have won the day;” Lest they rejoice in their strength.
As I trust in Your steadfast Love; my heart will rejoice, for in You is freedom.
I shall sing to the Beloved, who has answered my prayers a thousand fold!
Come, O Lord, make Your home in my heart.
Psalm 13 (Psalms for Praying)
As with all of us, the past several weeks have been unsettling, disorienting, and life changing. I have to admit, it has taken me a while to land.
I have recognized fear cycling around in my periphery as daily news changes and worsens.
I have experienced loss and grief as events have been canceled, deaths have been reported, and things have changed in ways we never expected.
I have been concerned about loved ones— aging parents, adult children, dear friends and family who are high risk, and people losing jobs, income, and health.
I have resisted feeling each of these emotions. I want to be strong, full of faith, imbued with peace so that I can encourage and love others. Instead I have felt weak, inadequate, and tiny.
Recently, I sat in the prayer loft my husband and I call “heaven.” This is my place of refuge, my place to enter the soul room. I sat in the overstuffed chair next to a big window overlooking the beauty of our backyard. As I listened to worship songs and instrumental pieces, the emotions slowly rose to the surface.
Sorrow and grief,
Fear and horror,
Gratitude and praise.
Hope and faith.
I allowed myself to cry, to worship, to BE. And God reminded me to be present.
To once again, allow myself to be okay with being human and to join Jesus in his suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection.
To reach a place of acceptance, rather than resistance, to the state of our world.
To acknowledge my weakness so that His grace can be my sufficiency.
Reaching this place of honesty reminded me of the power of lament. How important it is that experience our emotions. We may think of lament as whining and complaining about life, giving in to despair, or wallowing in our sorrow. In reality, it allows us to be real and honest before a compassionate loving God who understands our pain and cries with us. If we follow the pattern of biblical lament, it has the possibility of being a powerful place of worship.
King David was an expert at lamenting. Almost a third of the 150 psalms are laments. Someone once asked me why David was called a man after God’s own heart when it seemed like he was constantly complaining about his life in the psalms. I’m sure there are numerous reasons for that designation, but I believe, in part, it was because he was honest before God. He didn’t shove his feelings down, pick himself up by his bootstraps and keep going.
He brought his fears, emotions, sorrows, and humanity into God’s presence and processed through them with his King. At first glance, it may look like whining, but he was actually working his way back to faith by acknowledging his pain.
Psalms of Lament follow a simple pattern:
They begin with a complaint. . . that things are not as they should be.
They turn to a request. “God, do something! Rescue me! Heal me! Restore me! Show mercy!”
They end with an expression of trust. Laments end with the reminder that God is setting things right, even though it often seems so slow. It is right for our laments to turn towards a reminder that God is in control and about the business of righting all things made wrong.
(Taken from Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation for Friday, March 20, 2020)
Having David as a role model is comforting to my soul. His example gives me permission to experience my full humanity. It encourages me during these uncertain times to bring my own laments before God so that I can once again remember His sovereignty, His power, and His loving care for me and the world.
As life slows down and we spend more time at home, why not give yourself space with God to bring your own prayers of lament to His throne room?
You may want to use the three step approach above to write a lament.
Or, find a psalm that speaks to your heart. Using it as a framework, personalize and rewrite it by adding current day situations and personal responses.
If you need help, here are a few songs I’ve found that express lament:
Luke Howard: Hymn (Instrumental) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TArGqdXtlPQ
Rachel Davis: Lament https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5wd8XkfS0c
Rend Collective: Weep with Me https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAGqvq4N_zQ
Elevation Worship: Do it Again https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0B_lnQIITxU