Have you ever been shocked by what is written in the Psalms?
Arise, O God, defend your cause;
remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day! (Psalm 74:22)
O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses;
you have been angry; oh, restore us. (Psalm 60:1)
Have you ever wondered how the psalmists dared to speak like that to God? In fact, why in the world are prayers like that included in God’s holy word as examples of how we should pray?! They seem rather presumptuous, or at least a bit disrespectful.
I certainly have wondered those things before, and just as certainly have struggled to pray in that way. So Paul Miller’s explanation of Hebrew laments in his new edition of A Praying Life is very helpful for me:
Laments might seem disrespectful, but in fact they are filled with faith–a raw, pure form of faith that simply takes God at his word.
There is no such thing as a lament-free life. In fact, if your life is lament-free, you aren’t loving well. To love is to lament, to let your heart be broken by something.
If you don’t lament over the broken things in your world, then your heart shuts down. Your living, vital relationship with God dies a slow death because you open the door to unseen doubt and become quietly cynical. Cynicism moves you away from God; laments push you into his presence. So, oddly enough, not lamenting leads to unbelief. Reality wins, and hope dies. Put another way, the reality of a broken world triumphs over the new reality of a redeemed world. You miss resurrection and get stuck in death.
God rebukes his people and his priests because “they did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?'” (Jeremiah 2:5-8) A sure sign of their wandering hearts is that no one is in God’s face. No one takes hold of God and pulls. This idea is so strange to our ears that I must repeat it: God is upset with Israel because they are not lamenting. We think laments are disrespectful. God says the opposite. Lamenting shows you are engaged with God in a vibrant, living faith. [pages 173-175]
I need to lament. Life in this broken, sinful world is not as it is meant to be…and not as it one day will be. I need to lament over the childlike creativity and initiative that died in my daughter during her years in an orphanage. I need to lament over the inabilities to love that I find in myself and see in others. I need to lament the senseless devastation taking place in our own country and around the world.
“Where are you God? When will you answer these cries of my heart? Let me not give way to hopeless cynicism. Come and help me!”