Monday, March 1, 2021


On Tuesday of last week the Lenten devotional used Psalm 77 as the scripture. This passage is a lament, meant to sung. As a side note, we learned that at least one third of the Psalms are laments. That got me to thinking, why so many laments in the Psalms? Why a whole book of Lamentations? Even Jesus lamented saying " if Thou be willing, take this cup from me." Matt.22:42 

A bit of research turned up this definition of lament: a passionate expression of grief or sorrow. Another authority points out that the lament is an expression of sorrow, whereas grief is suffering. The expression part may be missing. 

In every age and clime humans have known heartbreak. For as long as we have a record, the lament has been part of our literature. Often it is purely instrumental. Think of our Remembrance Day ceremonies. One of the most moving moments is when the piper plays the Lament. The heart pours out its grief in pure emotion, no cerebral interference. If laments are so much a part of our being, they must serve some deep human need.

Lamentation, then, is about release, about letting the painful emotions flow:fear, doubt, bewilderment, anger, shame and guilt, perhaps, as well as sadness. 

                                                                              from Psychology Today 

The article goes on to "lament" our modern need to apologize for expressing grief. 

But, I still wonder why there is so much lamenting in the Bible. Didn't God chastise the Israelites in the wilderness for murmuring and complaining? Surely faith should make us joyful. More research . . .

  "Lament is prayer to God." 

So, my complaint is "I'm sick to death of this pandemic!" My lament would be "Dear God, I'm sick to death of this pandemic. Help me."

Note, in the lament example, I'm speaking to God, so my lament is a prayer. The lament is also an expression of faith. If I didn't think God had power to act, or compassion for my grief, there would be no point in telling Him of my distress.

Speaker and writer Niki Hardy puts it this way. 

3 Ways to Tell the Difference between Complaining and Lamenting

  • A complaint goes to another person while a lament is given solely to God
  • A complaint focuses solely on our grievance but a lament grounds our pain in the truth of who God is.
  • Complaints are screamed into the silence while a lament is uttered within the music of our praise

During our devotional time I jokingly said I might give up writing my list of thanksgivings and start a list of laments. Rev. Irwin was quick to point out I needed the thanksgivings too. His advice is Biblical. The pattern established in the Psalms is to cry out to God, let Him have a full description of my anger, sorrow, disappointment, grief, hurt -- give Him the full list of wrongs endured. I can go ahead and yell about a lost Christmas, missed celebrations, lonely funerals, grandchildren missing grandparents, family holidays cancelled. As Dr. Kirk used to say, "God has broad shoulders."

But, using Psalm 77 as a pattern, we see the change in verse 11. Now the writer remembers and meditates on God's mighty acts. In reminding God of His goodness, the psalmist also reminds himself and his hearers. Here my list of wrongs done unto me shifts to a list of mercies shown unto me. Our God is Holy, He works miracles, He has saved the nation, He controls the thunder and the sea. 

I turn to my list of thanksgivings. Remember it is 1000 items long and growing.

Finally, in the last verse of Psalm 77 the writer says God led His people like a shepherd. The Good Shepherd. Our friend, protector, provider, nurturer, comforter. 

We often hear that the Bible is a blueprint for living. Since broken hearts are part of living, God provided the blueprint for how to lament. . . and how to trust Him.

When I finished writing my lament, I stepped outside into the sunshine and found this happy little crocus pushing up from the frosty ground. Something to add to my list of thanksgivings.

Note: To join the Lenten Devotional every weekday morning at 9:00 am, follow the link sent our in Rev. Irwin's weekly letter, or call the office - (250) 656 -2241-  for assistance.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks as always for your thoughtful insight.
    We really do need to stop and think at times don't we?