This post contains an excerpt from the book God Behaving Badly by David Lamb – book review here. In case you are not familiar with the term “lament psalms”, the book of Psalms contains different types of psalms. About 1/3 of them are lament. However, lament in response to troubles is not typically well received in Christian circles. We don’t allow or make much space for it. Here is that excerpt:
“When I teach on lament psalms, I ask the class ‘What might a Christian today say if he or she saw another Christian hanging on a cross uttering these words: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Typical answers follow:
You shouldn’t talk like that. The book of Romans tells us that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
Don’t be so discouraged. Gabriel told Mary that nothing is impossible with God.
It can’t be that bad. The prophet Jeremiah tells you that God knows the plans he has for you, plans for your welfare, not for harm.
We are good at quoting ‘happy’ passages at people who are in pain. But when Jesus was on the cross, he didn’t focus on a hopeful Psalm or song (Always look on the bright side of life) but on a lament. If Jesus lamented, maybe we should too.” (pages 158-159)
A past post I wrote is entitled: Is it okay to cry, lament, and doubt? The short answer is…yes! With the “put on a happy face” mentality that seems to pervade in Christian circles today, honest lament needs to be encouraged.
However, this is not advocating pessimism, complaining, or hopelessness. We don’t want to forget the hope that we have in Christ. There is also a difference between lament and complaint. And even in the lament psalms, a psalm that began in lament would usually break out in praise toward the end. What is the attitude behind our cries? Are we crying out from a heart of faith? The psalmists believed in God, but were simply expressing their pain and uncertainty about life. Or are we crying out from a heart of disbelief, looking for any excuse to reject God?
As Lamb states, if Jesus lamented, maybe we should too. Maybe instead of quoting happy passages, we should lament along with them. After all, the Bible says that we should “mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)