The first time (and only so far) I saw Gungor in concert, I was floored. The concert was a worship experience like none other. Thoughtful and moving lyrics, artwork incorporated to match the mood and music, musician’s giving an impeccable performance. I left awed and in tears. Beautiful Things became an instant favorite.
Michael Gungor recently posted about lament on the band’s blog. (If you haven’t read it, head over now for context on the rest of my thoughts.) I read it as a call for balance in our Christianity; a call for balance in our worship. We focus so much on the joy of our salvation (an amazing gift), but seem to forget that this life is still really hard. If we only focus on the bright and peppy side of things, is this authentic? Does it truly reach out to the world? Or have we become a faith of ostriches, sticking our heads in the sand at the first sight of conflict or pain? (BTW, did you know that ostriches don’t actually stick their heads in the sand?)
I took a day and read through all of the songs of lament. Pages of notes, passages underlined, questions formed and mind blown. Many spoke to my heart as I continue to work through some painful situations in my own life.
Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish.
Look upon my affliction and my distress and take away all my sins.
See how my enemies have increase and how fiercely they hate me?
Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in You.
May integrity and uprightness protect me because my hope is in You.
I also turned to the internet to do some research on the Psalms of Lament. A lot of smart people have wonderful and insightful things to say about the Psalms of Lament.
The ability to pray lament psalms demonstrates a real and realistic faith, bluntly honest with the realities of life yet taking the promise of God seriously.
Rich Vincent, When God seems distant
God is big enough to handle our lament. He wants us to bring our sorrow to Him; He wants us to worship through tears when that’s all we can do.
Jake Hunt – Reading Psalms of Lament when you’re having a good day.
There is no attempt in Scripture to whitewash the anguish of God’s people when they undergo suffering. They argue with God, they complain to God, they weep before God. Theirs is not a faith that leads to dry-eyed stoicism, but to a faith so robust, it wrestles with God. – D.A.Carson
It is a characteristic of the righteous to have many afflictions, not to be affliction free.
Bill Muehlenberg – The Lament Psalms
Where does all this leave me? Why research and write about lament? Because I believe that before we can incorporate lament into our shared worship experiences, our own hearts have to be broken, we have to experience lament in our own soul before we can expect to share it authentically with others. Lamenting to God is not just giving him a grocery list of people to help and fix, it is having my heart shattered by their brokenness and crying out to God to help. Asking God to come in and rid our nation of sin and pride will mean nothing if I am not lamenting over the state of my own sinful soul.
Thankfully, God is big enough to handle my stress, my hurt and shares my longing for a better world.