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The Psalms of Lament: How Long, Oh Lord?

Every human being at some point will have experiences in life in which things will go terribly wrong. The “normal” of life will be upset and the proverbial wheels will fall off. Most of the situations that we will encounter cannot be explained, sudden life threatening illness, a car wreck, accidental death, natural disasters, a miscarriage and so on. When these horrible life events happen we search for the purpose of the disaster so we can avoid them in our lives. Our news is covered in medical findings on how to live a healthy lifestyle so as to avoid any illness that could threaten your life. When we drive our cars we wear seat belts and purchase cars with protective airbags to avoid harm. On job sites, we wear hard hats and protective safety gear to avoid accidental injury. Here in the Midwest, we purchase houses that are out of the floodplain to avoid our homes getting destroyed when there is a torrential downpour that leads to a flood.

Of course, we attempt to avoid any and all of these tragedies. But often times our culture attempts to tell us these tragedies can be avoided. The writer Denise Hopkins points out, ““We operate under the illusion that we can control our lives if we exercise, eat right, …e.t.c.” When we operate under this illusion our culture and we as members of it attempt to sweep these tragedies under the rug and try to avoid them as well as avoid talking about them or even might attempt to hide our feelings.

Unlike our culture the Psalms of Lament directly face these issues without sugar-coating them with trite phrases. These Psalms give voice to feelings and emotions that we are sometimes too scared to say out loud. Psalm 22 begins with, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.” Many would be shunned in the church for uttering such a phrase. Often times we don’t know where to turn when life brings painful events. We can take comfort in the Psalms of Lament when we experience events in our lives that are painful and cannot be avoided. We may never understand the purpose of these painful times but we do know that God did not cause them and most importantly that God joins us and is with us through them.

The Psalms of lament represent one-third of the Psalms and should not be avoided. As Hopkins writes, “ These challenges move us out of orientation into disorientation.” 2 When we experience disorientation in our lives we can turn to the Psalms of Lament as a guide to lead us through these difficult times. I would encourage you to use the below format to write your very own Psalm of Lament as a guide to help you through difficult circumstances.

Here is a list of the personal Psalms of Lament from the book of Psalms, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9-10, 13, 14, 17, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31, 36, 39, 40:12-17, 41, 42-43, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61, 64, 70, 71, 77, 86, 89, 120, 139, 141, 142.

Writing Your Personal Psalm of Lament

  1. Address (My God, my God…)________________________________________
  • Short, emotion-packed(one or two strong words of emotion)______________________________________________________
  • Why? How long?”________________________________________________
  1. Complaint __________________________________________________________
  • How is this causing you suffering? _________________________________
  • Is there an enemy (they)__________________________________________
  • God accused of not caring/doing (You)___________________________
  1. Petition (what do you want God to do?)______________________________
  1. Motivations
  • Confession of sin_________________________________________________
  • Are you innocent?________________________________________________
  • Is there a lack of trust that God will answer?________________________
  1. Confession of trust
  • How is God faithful? “but________________________________________”
  • Personal – how has God been faithful to you in the past?___________________________________________________________
  • Vow of praise to God_____________________________________________

Excerpt From: Denise Dombkowski Hopkins. “Journey through the Psalms.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/OpPYx.l

  1. Excerpt From: Denise Dombkowski Hopkins. “Journey through the Psalms.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/OpPYx.l
  2. Excerpt From: Denise Dombkowski Hopkins. “Journey through the Psalms.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/OpPYx.l