As I waited at the train station for my weekly commute, negative thoughts crowded my mind like commuters lining up to board a train—stress over debt, unkind remarks said to me, helplessness in the face of a recent injustice done to a family member. By the time the train arrived, I was in a terrible mood.
On the train, another thought came to mind: write a note to God, giving Him my lament. Soon after I finished pouring out my complaints in my journal, I pulled out my phone and listened to the praise songs in my library. Before I knew it, my bad mood had completely changed.
Little did I know that I was following a pattern set by the writer of Psalm 94. The psalmist first poured out his complaints: “Rise up, Judge of the earth; pay back to the proud what they deserve. . . . Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?” (Psalm 94:2, 16.) He didn’t hold anything back as he talked to God about injustice done to widows and orphans. Once he’d made his lament to God, the psalm transitioned into praise: “But the
God invites us to take our laments to Him. He can turn our fear, sadness, and helplessness into praise.
Lord, I pour out my heart to You. Take my hurts and my anger, and grant me Your peace.
There are many prayers recorded in the Bible, but the book of Psalms is dedicated to followers of God actively talking to God. The psalms are full of the raw emotions of God’s people. Sorrow, joy, confusion, anger, desperation, praise, and lament can be read from beginning to end. We often turn to them when we need encouragement to share our deepest and truest feelings with God. The psalms not only teach us about God, but perhaps primarily we see how the people of ancient Israel, both individually and corporately, approached Him. While there were prescribed rites and rituals that happened in the temple, the psalms show us God as a personal God who relates to individuals with specific and personal concerns.