A Time to Lament

by Jenny Black on

Articles 7 min read
Psalm 6 Psalm 62

When was the last time you allowed yourself to sit and linger in the depths of your sorrow?  

I know. It sounds about as much fun as having a root canal. It’s no wonder no one wants to undergo either of these because the root work required will undoubtedly intensify the pain at least for a moment. However, without it, healing can’t truly begin.  

Our culture prides itself on being strong and independent. There is little time or value in lamenting. Breaking down and depending on others are seen as weak.  

As Christians, we know we are to bring our weary and burdened souls to Jesus; however, we wonder if we are truly safe to express the reality of our bitter pain with a God who tells us to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Because of this, we often ignore the line in the middle of that passage, in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, which instructs us to pray continually, or the words of Ecclesiastes 3:1, which declare, “there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.” We glaze over the fourth verse of that same chapter, which states there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4).

Instead, we choose to stuff our feelings of despair deep into the depths of our fragile being in hopes that it will dissolve, and joy and gratitude will miraculously grow in its place. However, when pain is not addressed, it often leads to an increase of pain, not a lessening, and it typically produces a slew of new and more troublesome complications. As we limp through life, carrying the pain of our past, we become obsessed with pain management. We build self-imposed barriers in hopes of avoiding future pain, but these walls prevent us from experiencing deeper intimacy with the Lord in the midst of our suffering.

David, who is described in 1 Samuel 14:13 as “a man after God’s heart,” was not perfect by any means. So we know he didn’t receive this title because he always chose to live as God would have him live. David was known as a man after God’s heart because he faithfully turned and returned to God in prayer. He prayed prayers of repentance for the sins he committed, and he continually sought the Lord’s help to walk in His ways. But those weren’t the only prayers he prayed. He prayed prayers for vengeance as well as prayers of praise and gratitude. He even prayed prayers of lament.   

That’s right, David frequently approached God with songs of despair. In fact, over half the Psalms are songs of lament written by David and others as they cried out to God amid their excruciating circumstances. David knew when he was in God’s presence there was no point in smiling and pretending everything was okay. He was desperate for the relief he knew only God could bring to his downcast soul. He needed healing and mercy, deliverance and restoration. 

Listen to David’s words as he cries out to the Lord in the depths of his anguish.  

Psalm 6 

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger     or discipline me in your wrath. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;     heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish.     How long, Lord, how long? 

Turn, Lord, and deliver me;     save me because of your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims your name.     Who praises you from the grave? 

I am worn out from my groaning. 

All night long I flood my bed with weeping     and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow;     they fail because of all my foes. 

Away from me, all you who do evil,     for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;     the Lord accepts my prayer. 10 All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;     they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame. 

Lamenting is a crying out of the soul from a place of deep sorrow. It is not a sign of weakness. In contrast, it’s a spiritual discipline for the ever-maturing believer. Biblically speaking, a lament is a prayer of pain that leads to greater trust in God. When we choose to bring the depth of our pain to God, instead of trying to keep it hidden, we put our confidence in his tender care to treat our wounded souls. Likewise, David displays his trust in God by giving a voice to his pain by crying out to a God whom he wholeheartedly believes hears him and is powerful enough to carry him through the storm.  

The truth is, God already knows and sees the depth of our pain and he invites us, in Matthew 11:28, to come to him with our weary and burdened souls because he alone has the power to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds, as stated in Psalm 147:3

So, let’s give up the charade, because we aren’t fooling God with our ‘everything is okay’ smile. I know it’s terrifying to think about allowing your soul to freely linger in depths of your despair in the presence of an almighty God, but it is the necessary root work that only the Great Physician can do. Without His powerful presence, the pain will only intensify and cause further damage.   

I implore you, my friend. Don’t waste another minute trying to hold it together. Instead, pour out your heart to your loving Father as you put your trust in Him to delicately heal the searing pain of your sorrow.  

  Psalm 62:5-8 says, 

5 For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,     for my hope is from him. 6 He only is my rock and my salvation,     my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 7 On God rests my salvation and my glory;     my mighty rock, my refuge is God. 

Trust in him at all times, O people;     pour out your heart before him;     God is a refuge for us.  

God alone is our hope, our solid rock who cannot be shaken, and our refuge in the storm. He is the only place where you can hide and find healing. 

About the Author

Jenny Black (Master of Social Work, The University of Texas at Arlington) is the Central Counseling Director and Women's Minister at Central Bible Church.