So, I am tasked with creating a Psalm of Lament (or Complaint) for my Old Testament Class.
A lament psalm is one in which the writer is experiencing a painful situation. He cries out to Yahweh and asks for divine intervention in his problem (Stanley, p. 397.) The lament psalms are especially appealing to me because they contain real emotions, anger, fear, depression, etc… The lament psalms are not legends and myths from “days of old,” that have nothing to do with me. In fact, Stanley relates that the reason the psalms have been so popular for thousands of years is their “generality” of emotions allows people of varied circumstances to apply them to their own lives and to find comfort in doing so (p. 397.)
There are some features that are standard for most lament psalms. However, they are not always consistently engaged. We might find greater emphasis on some elements, and almost no emphasis on others. Nonetheless, these are the features commonly found in this genre, according to our class handout:
- Address to God – Approaching God in such a way as to identify Him as the one who can help me with my problem.
- Complaint – I tell Him what is wrong. And I use my entire descriptive vocabulary to do so, just so he knows how bad it really is.
- Statement of Trust – I admit that I do trust Him to help me, even though He has not done so yet.
- Petition – I tell Him what I want Him to do to fix my problem.
- Vow of Thanksgiving – I promise to praise Him, but more importantly, to share with others the story of His great deeds once He intervenes in my circumstances.
I believe that as a modern church, we do not do a sufficient job of teaching our members how to engage the lament psalms. According to Stanley, “one of the chief benefits of religion is that it helps people cope with adversity,” (p. 398.)
I believe that is true. However, we need to do a better job introducing our people to the language, the emotions, and the appropriateness of approaching God with our pain. If not, then we risk turning our faith into nothing more than a dead ideaology that is no help to us in our daily struggles. I love this quote by Dr. Lester in his article, Psalms of Lament:
“Lament gazes unflinchingly at the present reality of pain and at God’s apparent slowness to save.”
The laments give voice to our reality and allow us to approach God boldly with our problems and cries for help. They are the core foundation in our ability to express trust in an ever-present and loving God, even when He hasn’t acted on our behalf, yet…
I have never tried to write a psalm of this nature before, but I thought about it a great deal and figured that the time of my own greatest “lament” would be a good place to begin. I tried to express the emotions and needs in that time while still remaining available to others in their situations. I also tried to incorporate the main elements that are expected in a psalm of this nature. Hope it speaks to some of you!
Where are you, my Lord?
Where are you, my Rock and my Fortress?
Why have you left me here all alone?
Why have you abandoned me in my time of greatest need?
All day long, I cry out to you, “Help me, Lord!”
But You remain silent.
I am lonely in this place, my King.
Once, I was part of the world; doing lunch with friends, meeting the day with joy, taking showers…
Now I slog through life; every day a repeat of the one before.
Gone is the joy of laughter and stimulating conversation with others.
All that exists in my head is the incessant drone of Max and Ruby…
Help me, Lord!
My enemies pile up around me. They overwhelm me and drive me further into the pit.
And yet, I have faith in You, my King. Deliver me from this torment, I beg You!
As the dirty clothes encroach upon me, and the stench of the overflowing diaper pail overtakes me, I feel as if I am drowning. I can’t breathe!
Help me, Lord!
I am weary, my King.
I long for the days of old when sleep came peacefully and consistently.
Now, I live under the constant threat of the voices in the darkness crying out, “MOMMY!, I need juice!”
Have mercy on me, I beg. Just for an hour… a blessed nap from your victorious right hand…
Help me, Lord!
You will save me. I know it to be true.
For I am your precious child, doing my best to honor you.
And on that glorious day, when you restore me to a life of meaning;
I will sing your praises; in your mighty presence I will dance.
And I will trust that my feet will fall in soft, green pastures,
instead of crushed Cheerios and ants…
I Praise you, Lord!