How Long O Lord - Psalm 13:1

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
— Psalm 13:1

Lament is a lost art. Most of us just don’t know how to handle it. We have a tendency to get uncomfortable. Our theological systems don’t allow us to express mystery and confusion. Maybe the tribes in which we find ourselves even make us nervous about unwittingly sliding into theological error in a statement from our emotional depths. Or we just don’t want to come off as self-pitying navel-gazers who burden people with our problems when we would far prefer to be the problem solvers.

Deep grief is isolating. Even our best friends pull back. Why? We simply are not good at hearing laments from broken people. They are disorienting, unnerving, and messy. This is particularly true of people who we expect something “more” of in their lives and walk with Jesus. We can easily slide into moralizing or theologizing against people when we feel like things are getting out of balance. 

Look at the Psalm above. David’s cry in Psalm 13 gives words through which we can learn to enter into lament. Lament is different than self-pity or depression. It is inviting people into our own brokenness. It’s a grieving that there is a stark gap in this world between what is and what ought to be. Christian lament is able to seek the rest we have in Jesus even as we engage passionately in what is broken and wrong in the world around us. It’s scary, though, because true lament puts us in a position of weakness, totally dependent on God to act. When God meets us in the darkness and despair, by His Spirit, that is where transformation happens. 

If we don’t learn to lament the consequences are dire. An inability to cry out about what is broken within ourselves and this world will inevitably lead to a distance between us and God because we are not being honest with Him. We have to learn to press into sorrow and despair, trusting that the Living God will bring light from darkness, life from death, resurrection and hope. 

Further Reflection:

  1. What is grieving your heart today? 
  2. Why is it hard to engage our sorrow and sadness, even to God? 
  3. How has God met you in despair in the past?  
  4. How does Jesus’ life show us how to lament?

- Bill Riedel

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