The Gifts of Lament

"All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes. My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away." (Psalm 38:9-11)

These are heavy, emotion-laden words from one of the many Psalms of Lament found in our Hebrew scriptures.

The Psalms of Lament are an invaluable element of scripture. The poetry there helps to name the deep pain people experience – all while holding God's merciful hand. All of Psalms 6, 10, 38, 42-43, and 130, among others, are a true gift for people of faith.

How are they a gift?

First, these Psalms invite us to keep clinging to God at the same time that we cry out for justice. They let us scream in anguish and anger without fear of being silenced or abandoned. For those among us who have been treated as an outsider, this is life-giving.

Second, naming the pain and giving voice to the deep wounds we have is an absolutely necessary step in the process of healing. Most of us carry wounds of some sort. It's pretty difficult being human among other humans without someone getting hurt. These Psalms help us to call awareness to the reality of the pain we carry.

Third, these Psalms remind us that we are not alone. We live in a world where people have become increasingly insular and separated from one another. Oftentimes it feels as though no one really knows or cares about the heaviness we carry. These Psalms are a testimony to how what we experience is known by people throughout time and place, and known tenderly by God.

Lastly, these Psalms never leave us to wallow in the pain indefinitely. "I wait for the Lord; my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning" (Psalm 130:5-6). We are reminded that in the Lord, there is always hope.


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