The Laments in God’s Inspired Word Teach Us How to Mourn, and Express Our Honest Questions

Laments make up more than one-third of the psalms. The contrast between Israel’s hymnbook and the church’s says a great deal about our failure to acknowledge suffering. If we don’t sing about suffering and struggle, why shouldn’t our people feel surprised when it comes?

Read Psalm 88, arguably the most discouraging portion of the Bible: “My soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave.... You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.... My eyes are dim with grief.... Why, O LORD, do you reject me and hide your face from me?” Not exactly a sunny day! And listen to how it ends: “You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.”

Yet even then the psalmist cries out to “the God who saves me” (verse 1).

The psalms of lament grant us permission to express to God our honest questions, doubts, griefs and despair. That our heavenly Father chose to include these as inspired Scripture suggests that parents should encourage emotional honesty in their children. They should learn to voice to God and to us their disappointments, fears, and frustrations along with their dreams, happiness, and gratitude. Certainly we should resist whining and self-pity, both in ourselves and our children. But we should also guard against pretense and the silent seeds of disillusionment and bitterness.

The book of Psalms brims with honest questions to God about evil and suffering and asks why God doesn’t intervene:

Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (10:1, ESV)

I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?” (42:9, ESV)

Awake! Why are you sleeping, O LORD?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? (44:23–24, ESV)

By including laments in His inspired Word, God graciously invites our cries, so long as we remain willing to listen to His response.

Musician Michael Card writes,

My experience with lament and with the living God occurred several years ago, when I was diagnosed with a degenerative liver disease. My father had died when I was seventeen, and now faced with the possibility that I might die, leaving behind my seventeen-year-old son and fourteen-year-old daughter, I was overwhelmed with feelings of anger and confusion and pain. When I finally let go and cried out to God, it was in fury and frustration that I unleashed on Him, accusing Him, questioning Him. It did not make any sense to me. How could a loving God allow my children to go through the pain that I had? I had done all that He had asked of me. I had been a faithful servant and made the right choices and sacrifices. Why was He doing this to me? How dare He? I was certain that I had pushed Him too far, that I was now going to experience His wrath and condemnation for my ranting and unbelief. But what I found instead was great mercy and tenderness. I experienced His loving-kindness in a way that I never had before. He had been waiting all along for me to come to the end of myself and fall on my knees before Him. He had been waiting for me to be completely honest with who I was, instead of who I thought I should be. And I realized that it was in my brokenness and weakness that I was truly able to know the tremendous love that my great God has for me. He could take anything that I hurled at Him. He was not going to let me go.[1]

If you’d like to read more related to the subject of evil and suffering, see Randy’s book If God Is Good, as well as the devotional 90 Days of God’s Goodness and book The Goodness of God (a specially focused condensation of If God Is Good, which also includes additional material). Many people have also handed out the If God Is Good booklets.

[1] Michael Card, A Sacred Sorrow (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2005), 9.

Photo: Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries