5 Reasons Lament And Praise Must Stand Together In Worship
Worship in our various traditions includes proclaiming God’s goodness, power, and majesty. With confidence we speak of God’s nearness to the brokenhearted, of His tender care, and His faithful presence. All this is deeply, profoundly, and ultimately true. But is it always true of our lived experience?
If we are honest, often God seems far away; He does not always answer when we call; His presence does not feel as close as we proclaim. Sometimes horrible things happen to us or to those we love, and the God of healing and salvation seems reluctant or slow to act. How should the community of faith respond when our lived experience does not correspond to our faith-filled proclamation?
Psalms Of Both Lament And Praise
A common and often helpful response is to continue to proclaim the truth of God’s character and to recount His past faithfulness during times of suffering and difficulty. The Bible certainly echoes this kind of response to adversity, where praise becomes an act of faith. But scripture is not limited to responding in this way. In fact the more common response in the Bible is to be very candid about the experience of adversity and to cry out directly to God for relief. This cry for help is most often and clearly seen in the Psalms of complaint or lament.
More than one third of the Psalms are laments, which makes lament by far the most common kind of song in Israel’s songbook. The disparity between Israel’s songbook and a modern worship notebook or hymnal is remarkable. In both you will find songs of adoration, exuberant praise, and bold declarations of God’s unfailing love and faithfulness. What is conspicuous by its absence in our worship corpus – modern or traditional – are songs of lament or complaint. Typically only a small fraction even gives a hint of our experience of adversity, weakness, and suffering. Few, if any, plumb the depth of suffering, or cry to God for justice like the lament Psalms.