One of my favorite Old Testament professors once shared this startling statistic: 40 percent of the psalms in the Bible are songs of lament in which the authors present their heartache and pain to God. But in the catalog of modern worship music, only 5 percent of songs could be considered lament, even by the most generous standards. My prof believes that part of the reason we don’t know how to lament is because modern worship tends to focus more on celebration and less on lamentation.
In addition to this possibility, we often lack an understanding of what true lament is—the nature of which is revealed in Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39,42,44). There He experienced a life-crushing sorrow as He considered the brutal events of Good Friday that awaited Him (Matthew 27:26-35). But the sorrow itself isn’t the lament. Jesus’ lament began when “He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me’ ” (Matthew 26:39). So it isn’t simply the experience of suffering. Lament involves consciously bringing our pain before God and spending time in His loving, compassionate presence.
So often I fail to go “a little farther” when I’m in the midst of a season of suffering. I brood over my hurt and my pain, imagining that it’s the same thing as godly lament. But for me to truly lament, I have to bring the hurt and pain before the presence of my Father, facing my situation in light of His power and mercy. And when I do this, I experience deep comfort knowing that I’m no longer holding on to my pain, but casting it before Jesus who cares for me! (1 Peter 5:7).
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Genesis 28:10-22
Read Psalm 22:1-5 for an example of both the heartache and hopefulness that are part of lament.
Do you hear much about lament in your local church? When was the last time you truly lamented and brought your pain before God? What changed when you did?