Early in my Christian life, I was frustrated with life and with God. I thought that I should keep my frustrations with God to myself.
I didn’t want lightning to strike if I told God my thoughts on His sovereign control of the universe. I remembered how the Israelites grumbled during their wilderness journey – it never ended well.
A good friend, who was wiser than me (most of my friends are) said, “There is nothing wrong with being honest with God. The Israelites grumbled and rebelled but in the Psalms of Lament complaints brought to God ended in praise.”
Okay, the Psalms of Lament indicate it is okay to be honest with God. I can complain! God can handle my frustrations. Hmmmmhhhh, what are the Psalms of Lament?
Remember, I was young in my faith.
There are 51 Psalms of Lament in the Book of Psalms. As I think there are 51 Psalms of Lament – Google has varying lists, scholars as well, and the OGV list of 51 Lamenting Psalms has one number listed twice.
This repeated number is my favorite.
3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 17, 22, 25, 26, 27, 27, 28, 31, 36, 40, 42, 43, 44, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 64, 69, 70, 71, 74, 77, 79, 80, 83, 85, 86, 89, 90, 94, 120, 123, 126, 129, 139, 141 & 142
My good friend, smarter and wiser than I, was right. The Psalms are typically presented as joy and praise but with 51 of them speaking honestly about difficulty – from the moment of this discovery, I had confidence that I could tell God what I thought.
Psalm 69 starts with: “Save me O God…I have sunk deep into mire/trouble and there is no solution or escape. I am weary of crying, my throat is parched, I am ready to give up.” (vs. 1-3 OGV)
Psalm 69 ends with: “Let heaven and earth praise Him, God will save Zion, and us! We will again dwell in the presence of His blessing. Those who love His name will prosper.” (vs. 34-36 OGV)
Spend a week or two reading the Psalms of Lament and you will find a similar pattern in these Psalms – honesty, description of difficulty, a new perspective of God, and praise! The grumbling in the Psalms of Lament do not end in rebellion as it did with the Israelites in the wilderness.
Thus, no judgment or lightning bolts; rather an awareness of God’s presence and of His glory.
The ultimate purpose of Christianity is to experience the presence of God! Psalm 27 writes that King David’s joy was to abide in the temple. We are now the temple with the Spirit of God within us.
We can sense the presence of God throughout our day. The Psalms of Lament have taught me that I can be honest with God – and that He can be honest with me – and out of this conflict I accept what I don’t understand, release what hinders, and trust in the path of holiness.
Peace comes from presence. Do you have peace? Do you have a sense of His presence? Learning to complain or legitimately lament is the path to both.
Right now, during my pontifications, my encouraging teaching about God’s presence achieved through difficulty – I notice, looking out of my office, that a raccoon has chewed three holes in my porch roof!
I’m wondering if I can skip the Lamenting, going straight to lightning bolts on a few raccoons?!!!