Psalms of Lament – Vocabulary for Pain

Psalm 13 – How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?  How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?  Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.  But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Before I walk you through this Psalm, I need to tell you about Psalms like these.  These kind of Psalms are called “Psalms of Lament” because the Psalmist has reached his breaking point, he’s cracked, and this is the type of language that comes out of the human soul when you crack.  You should know though, that not everyone has looked nicely on these Psalms.  C.S. Lewis is among this group.  He said, “The men who wrote these psalms are almost shockingly alien, creatures of unrestrained emotion, wallowing in self pity, sobbing cursing, screaming, and dancing to the music of strange musical instruments.  What good can the modern man find in reading such stuff?”  Today, these Psalms are viewed as strange and inappropriate because they are filled with complaining and arguing against God, and Christians of all people shouldn’t complain or argue with God right?!  Most Christians avoid Psalms like this because they believe that Christians ought to know that no matter how hard things get in life, we ought to know Romans 8:28, that God is working all things for good, and that we should just trust that in the end all will be okay.  Didn’t Jesus Himself say that He’ll always be with us?  And if He’s with us, shouldn’t we always trust that we’ll be alright?

Well, though these things are all true and glorious, I do not look down on these Psalms as if they are out of line or inappropriate for Christians today and I don’t think you should look down on them either.  Out of all the 150 Psalms, 60 of them of Psalms of Lament, that’s 40% of the whole book.  This should teach us that God has purpose in inspiring so many Psalms of Lament in His Word.  I think the purpose is to show and teach us that God invites us to speak the truth about our lives, our pain, and our confusion to Him, because He cares and can do something about it.  We must see that Psalm 13 and those like it are in the Bible to give us words, to give us vocabulary to say to God when the dark times don’t end or don’t get better.  These Psalms help us learn that when we hurt, we must hurt with God, rather than without Him.  So, let’s get into Psalm 13 shall we?

Psalm 13 has five parts to it, the David’s address to God, David’s complaint, David’s request, David’s appeal, and David’s confidence.  We’ll take em one at a time beginning tomorrow.


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