Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
The people of God have always had their laments. The Psalms are filled with a whole host of intense emotions and expressions towards God. So many of them were birthed in times of suffering and struggle. Psalm 3 was written as King David fled for his life from his own son Absalom. Psalm 56 was inspired when the Philistines seized him in Gath. In Psalm 57 he’s on the run again, this time from King Saul, and wrote the song whilst hiding in a cave. These are songs formed in the fire of affliction. They are the desperate cries of a worshipper on the road marked with suffering. In fact, Eugene Peterson estimates that around 70% of content in the Psalms is lament-based.
Blessed be Your name:
In the land that is plentiful, where Your streams of abundance flow;
When I’m found in the desert place, though I walk through the wilderness.
When the sun’s shining down on me, when the world’s ‘all as it should be’;
On the road marked with suffering, though there’s pain in the offering.
Every blessing You pour out, I’ll turn back to praise.
When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say:
blessed be Your glorious name.
Clearly therefore, songs of lament are a very biblical thing to sing in worship. Yet they are also a relevant thing to sing, for we live in a world full of anguish and heartache. As Christians, yes we live in victory, but in paradox we also exist as strangers in a foreign land, aching for home, and knowing deep within us that the world we see before is not as it should be. So the question is this: if songs of lament are firstly thoroughly biblical, and secondly extremely relevant, then why on earth are there not more songs to help us voice these heart-cries? As Frederich W. Schmidt Jr. writes, these Psalms do three things:
They give us permission to ask our own questions about suffering. They model the capacity to ask questions we might otherwise suppress, but can never escape. And they model how those questions might be asked without fear of compromising our relationship with God or with other people.