Lament, Sorrow, Doubt in the Life of the Believer

     Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. Job 13:15

     There is a time to mourn. Ecclesiastes 3:4

     Many say, “Oh, that we might see better times!” O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us! You put gladness into my heart, more than when grain and wine abound. As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep, for you alone, O Lord, bring security to my dwelling. Psalm 4:7-9

     My soul, too, is utterly terrified; but you, O Lord, how long…? Psalm 6:4

     Why, O Lord, do you stand aloof? Why hide in times of distress? Psalm 10:1

     How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13

     O my God, I cry out by day, and you answer not; by night, and there is no relief for me. Psalm 22:3

     Look toward me, and have pity on me, for I am alone and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress. Put an end to my affliction and my suffering, and take away all my sins.
Behold, my enemies are many, and they hate me violently. Preserve my life, and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. Psalm 25:16-20

     My friends and my companions stand back because of my affliction… Psalm 38:12

     As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me continually, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:1-6

     Awake! Why are you asleep, O Lord? Arise! Cast us not off forever!
Why do you hide your face, forgetting our woe and our oppression?
For our souls are bowed down to the dust, our bodies are pressed to the earth. Psalm 44:24-26

     Pour out your wrath upon the nations that acknowledge you not, upon the kingdoms that call not upon your name. Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?” Let it be known among the nations in our sight that you avenge the shedding of your servants’ blood. And repay our neighbors sevenfold into their bosoms the disgrace they have inflicted on you, O Lord. Psalm 79:6,10,12

     Show us, O Lord, your kindness, and grant us your salvation. I will hear what God proclaims; the Lord—for he proclaims peace. To his people, and to his faithful ones, and to those who put in him their hope. Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him, glory dwelling in our land. Psalm 85:8-10

     For my soul is surfeited with troubles and my life draws near to the nether world. Psalm 88:4

     Rise up, judge of the earth; render their deserts to the proud. How long, O Lord, shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked glory, mouthing insolent speeches, boasting, all the evildoers? Psalm 94:2-4

     Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! Psalm 130:1-2

     Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

     Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Luke 6:21b

     Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

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     “First, we feel, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and we might think, “I should not feel this way! I am losing my faith!” Lament corrects a false, naïve and overly rationalistic view of faith.
     In the Scriptures, faith is not simply an intellectual assent to some statement about God. It is the trusting of our entire selves to God. At times, we do experience God’s absence; we do feel alone and confused, and we doubt.
     Doubt is not opposed to faith; despair is. We see this in the case of the father who brought his son to Jesus for healing. When Jesus encouraged the father to have faith, he replied, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
     Even St. Paul tells us he was “perplexed, but not driven to despair” (2 Corinthians 4:8). In despair we give up on our relationship with God. Doubt, on the other hand, is a sign that our faith is alive and kicking; it is part of the rhythm of faith itself.
     Lament is not a failure of faith, but an act of faith. We cry out directly to God because deep down we know that our relationship with God counts; it counts to us and it counts to God.
     …..
     [Secondly]…In our search for meaning [to our suffering], we can be tempted to look for cheap and easy answers. Lament teaches us that there are indeed things we do not understand; in fact, we cannot understand. God does not say, “Do not fear; you will understand everything and have all the answers.” Our human mind can take us only so far. At times we can do no more than speak our confusion to God, and lament tells us that we should do no less.
     …..
     Thirdly, we feel against people who hurt us, personally or as a nation, “Happy the man who shall seize and smash your little ones against the rock” (Psalm 137:9), and we think, “I should not feel this way; it is against charity.”
     Lament counters a false, naïve and overly romantic view of charity. Charity does not mean that everything is lovely, that we never get upset, that we sit around holding hands and saying how wonderful everything is. This is unreal.
     Negativity, injustice, hatred, brokenness are part of our lives and part of our world. In the face of this, we can have an instinctive feeling for retaliation in kind, for returning hatred with hatred. I do feel pain, hurt and anger, but these are not a good basis on which to act. The fact that I feel a certain way does not give me permission to go out and dump my negativity wherever and on whomever I want. Lament suggests that it is all right to express our uncensored feelings before God.”
     – Michael Guinan, Biblical Laments: Prayer Out of Pain

     “It is a curious fact that the church has, by and large, continued to sing songs of orientation in a world increasingly experienced as disoriented…It is my judgment that this action of the church is less an evangelical defiance guided by faith, and much more a frightened, numb denial and deception that does not want to acknowledge or experience the disorientation of life. The reason for such relentless affirmation of orientation seems to me, not from faith, but from the wishful optimism of our culture. Such a denial and cover-up, which I take it to be, is an odd inclination for passionate Bible users, given the larger number of psalms that are songs of lament, protest, and complaint about an incoherence that is experienced in the world…I believe that serous religious use of the lament psalms has been minimal because we have believed that faith does not mean to acknowledge and embrace negativity. We have thought that acknowledgement of negativity was somehow an act of unfaith, as though the very speech about it conceded too much about God’s “loss of control”…The point to be urged here is this: The use of these “psalms of darkness” may be judged by the world to be acts of unfaith and failure, but for the trusting community, their use is an act of bold faith
     …..
     It is an act of profound faith to entrust one’s most precious hatreds to God, knowing they will be taken seriously.”
     – Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms (51-52)

     “…Complaint is not antithetical to active engagement with God (i.e., high communion). Rather, complaint can coexist with communion with God.
     Although the commingling of communion and complaint might sound odd to some believers, strong students of the bible know that this experience has ample biblical support. For example, most lament psalms mix complaint with communion. Brueggemann calls this the plea-to-praise movement. That is, the experience of lament mixes plea/complaint with praise/communion. Perhaps the best single bible verse that captures the communion/complaint interface is Job 13:15 (brackets are mine): Though he slay me [complaint], yet will I hope in him [communion].
     The point here is that complaint is a legitimate experience of faith. Complaint can be a regular feature of faith. In fact, as Brueggemann suggests, complaint can be an act of bold faith.”
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     – Richard Beck, Summer and Winter Christians
     – Richard Beck, Summer and Winter Christians (ACU)

     “We’ve been taught our whole lives that to ‘lament’ or express sorrow is unbiblical. Not only is lamenting biblical, I would go so far as to say that lamenting is the highest expression of faith. Why? Because it’s easy to express joy and faith when things are going good. But what’s the definition of faith? To cling to things unseen; to hope in that which you cannot see at work; to trust God when you see nothing to indicate you should trust in Him. So, when you look out at your surroundings and see nothing but despair and evil and no evidence of God’s hand at work in your life, and then are able to look up at God and say anything, whether it be “Praise Your name, Father!” or “How long O Lord?”, you are expressing a faith that far exceeds that of the man who can praise God when He’s given whatever He wanted.”
     – Christopher Graham, Systematic Theology I lecture (4/22/14)

     – Xenos Christian Fellowship, Psalms of Lament
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