Lament & Praise

By Craig Stevenson

A group of us at Hallsville UMC are doing the “Bible Recap”—a chronological daily reading to read the Bible in a year. In the past few weeks, we’ve been in-and-out of the Book of Psalms. I’m reminded, as we read this, how beautiful, sincere, and urgent they are. Some are full of pain, sorrow, anger, but yet acknowledge hope in their faith in God because of His love for us. These psalms are wonderful prayers to God, something I acknowledge I often struggle with spending enough time in.

Like the psalmists, these days, we need to lament. In the past month, maybe you have experienced sorrow, pain or grief. Our neighbors, ourselves, or loved ones may have lost a job resulting in a difficult position financially. Our family members may remain distanced from us due to health concerns, even as we move to become less isolated as a society. It’s not only okay—but we should join with our brothers and sisters in their grief and sadness, just as God is with us when we lament to him through prayer. If you are the one experiencing or feeling this, I join you in sorrow, pain, and anger. I’m sorry for what you or your loved ones are experiencing.

As Christians, our hope is not in this life. We are an Easter people. Our everlasting life will not be found in this world. The people of Israel, even pre-Jesus, realized that their hope should not be in these earthly things, but in God. What I find incredible about the Psalms of Lament to God is that they often end with a praise or word of hope in God. How many of us are truly thankful or hopeful in our prayers of anger, sorrow, rejection, or sadness? I confess, not me. Here are a few examples of Psalms who end their lament to God with a word of hope:

“Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love” (Psalm 44).

“But I will trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I. will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13).

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90).

As stay-at-home orders begin to be loosened, it’s important to know this sorrow or anger won’t suddenly stop as our lives slowly return to a new normal—and it may actually intensify. As we move into another new part of life, let’s do our best when we experience lamenting to be our best selves and practice the things Jesus taught us as he walked among us.

How can we do that? We can take care of ourselves, offer more grace to everyone, check-in on each other, and remain supportive of one another. These are critical—treating our neighbors as ourselves. Most important of all, we must remain hopeful in a God of refuge and strength.

To better offer laments and praise or hope to God, each day this month, I will write a lament and hope/praise to God. I invite you to join me to both acknowledge our pain but see the hope God provides each of us.