Do you have a favorite psalm that is your go-to scripture? Is there a psalm that you most identify with? Is there a psalm that seemed to capture the very essence of what you were feeling at a point in time?
The psalms were a way for the people of the Ancient Near East to offer prayers, praise, or laments to God. In very poetic language, they described the majesty and splendor of God. Many psalms were a lament for whatever the evil of the day was and an opportunity to express righteous indignation for whatever said evil was. You can experience the depth of the relationship the psalmist had with God by how and what they wrote.
Fortunately for us, the psalms and the art of writing psalms was not just for the people of old. We have the privilege to bare our souls before God in praise, supplication, and in lament. A few months ago, our pastor in church gave us the opportunity to explore Psalm 13 as a prototype for writing psalms. I encourage you to read this Psalm when you have the time. The general idea is that this Psalm offers something of a formula to follow when trying to write a psalm:
- Express how you feel
- Remember the greater story of what God is doing
- Recognize God’s salvation
- Rejoice in God’s goodness
Based on this formula, the pastor gave us the opportunity to write our own psalms to God (Interestingly enough, my daily journal also encouraged me to do something similar). So after reflecting on how I was feeling and how my 2022 had shaped up to be, I wrote this psalm to God:
I am lost and feeling directionless
But I remember that your purpose was to seek and save that which was lost
You are the way; the one pointing my feet where they need to go
You are my truth, when the world screams what is your truth and encourages multiple truths
And today, I trust you because even though my life feels directionless, it really isn’t because you O God, are my life
Yes I know it does not rhyme and is not poetic but in that moment this was the baring of my soul to God. In fact, I have gone back to this psalm a few times in the past few weeks since writing it and have found strength in the words I wrote to God.
Is there something you would like to tell God today? Do you have a praise report, a burning request, or a lament to take up with God? Well, friend, consider writing a psalm to God.
Two years ago, I made a commitment to read the entire bible again. However, this time instead of doing it it a year, I wanted to slow it down so I could savor every reading and so I opted for a three year reading plan. For the past month so I have been “stuck” in the book of Psalms and I use the word “stuck” because as much as I love the Psalms, oh boy is it ever so dreary! The first 40 chapters are full of lots of lamenting so much so that I stopped looking forward to my daily readings. In fact I remember telling God how tired I was reading all of these laments because I could not find any fodder for my blogpost from them! You can imagine my great joy yesterday when my reading plan switched gears to the book of Philippians. Despite my relief, I still asked God what lessons there were to be learnt from lament and the answer came today in our Ash Wednesday Service at church dubbed “Hope in Lament”. This is what I learnt:
As Christians, we sometimes encounter situations where there is a disconnect between what we know to be true of God and our reality here on earth. Cerebrally, we know God to be good, kind, and loving and yet we sometimes encounter situations that make us question God’s goodness, his kindness and love towards us. If you are a “good African Christian” you would have been told explicitly or implicitly at some point that to question God and to ask why questions His sovereignty and is an expression of a lack of complete trust in His will and plan. But this is where lament comes in. Lamenting gives us the opportunity to be real with God and to have a safe space and outlet to tell God exactly what we are feeling and thinking without holding back. We can come to God with our raw emotions without censoring ourselves for fear we will offend His majesty. David, the apple of God’s eye, certainly knew the value of being real with God. In the Psalms, he speaks openly to God about his mental health, his physical health, his emotional health and his spiritual health. In his laments, he acknowledges God for who He is, sovereign and all and does not hesitate to lay it all- the good, bad and ugly before His Sovereign King. Jesus himself just before the cross found value in lament- in not letting the anguish he felt in his soul consume him but to find an outlet in crying out that the cup be taken away from him! In one of his darkest moments, he lamented to God.
So today I have learnt the value of lamenting- it is a healthy outlet God provides for his children so we can let out some steam when the world beats down on us. It is not ungodly to lament, rather, it is another way God proves to us that He understands what it is like to be human- that He understands that sometimes our emotions get so pent up within us we feel like we are going to explode and He invites us to lament to Him- no judgements! In fact he encourages it so much that when the bible was being compiled He ensured that there was a whole book called Lamentations to model for us that it’s okay to lament. Now while I am not looking forward to the book of Lamentations, I am grateful for the lesson that I can come to God with any and every thing in my mind and heart without censoring or judgement. There truly is hope in lament!
P.S. shout out to Pastor Colin of Living Hope Alliance Church for an awesome service!