No matter how dark the valley is, we walk through it with God who promised never to leave or forsake us.
Suffering and sorrow are inevitable parts of the human experience, and nobody is immune to grief, pain, doubt, and despair. In difficult seasons, we may be tempted to hide our pain or bury our emotions. However, the Psalms show us a better way – honestly bringing our raw emotions before God in prayer.
Psalms of lament make up around a third of the 150 Psalms. Lament psalms express grief, confusion, anger, and despair while seeking God’s comfort and deliverance. Praying the Psalms of lament can help us authentically connect with God in the midst of adversity. The following post explores why Psalms of lament are essential to the Christian experience and identifies five of the most significant found in Scripture.
What are Psalms of Lament?
Psalms of lament are prayers that lay out a troubling situation to God while seeking His intervention or deliverance. These psalms model how we can approach God with the full range of human emotion and experience, even difficult emotions like anger, doubt, and despair.
The lament psalms typically follow a similar pattern or structure:
- Address to God
- Complaints about the situation
- Confession of trust in God
- Petition or request for God to act
- Praise or expression of trust in God’s sovereignty
The psalmists were real people working through intense grief, trauma, and adversity. We can relate to their agony and find solace in knowing they made it through dark times of suffering. Lament psalms model how we can be brutally honest with God. They express raw, complex emotions openly before God, teaching us not to bottle up pain but to bring it honestly to the Lord.
Though the lament psalms express moments of complete despair, they ultimately affirm trust in God’s faithful character and sovereign control. Even in the depths of pain, these prayers anchor our emotions to God’s steadfast love, especially when life overwhelms us.
5 Important Psalms of Lament
1. Psalm 13
Psalm 13 is the classic example of an individual lament. David cries out, “How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?” (v.1) He complains that his enemies triumph over him (v. 2) and feels forgotten by God (v.1). Yet, the psalm ends on a note of faith. “But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation, I will sing to the Lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.” (vs. 5-6)
2. Psalm 22
This lament psalm opens with Jesus’ own cry of despair on the cross, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (v.1). David expresses being scorned, despised, and mocked by others (vs. 6-8). He is feeling utterly forsaken by God. Yet again, the tone shifts midway to praise God for His past faithfulness (vs. 3-5). The psalm ends in worship, with all the families of the nations bowing down before the Lord (vs. 27-31).
3. Psalm 42
Psalm 42 is a lament from someone cut off from Temple worship, mourning the lost comfort of God’s presence. “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God.” (v.1). The psalmist is overcome with despair, feeling God has forgotten him (v. 9). Yet, he responds by preaching truth to his own soul. “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” (v. 11).
4. Psalm 69
Psalm 69 is an impassioned plea from someone feeling overwhelmed by opposition from enemies, adversity, and his own sins and mistakes. He pleads for rescue and deliverance. “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing.” (vs. 1-2). This psalm openly admits sin and folly, while expressing the anger and betrayal the writer feels from former friends. Yet the writer affirms his unwavering hope in God’s goodness and salvation.
5. Psalm 88
Psalm 88 is the darkest of all the lament psalms. The writer feels completely cut off from God’s comfort and love. “My soul is full of troubles, And my life draws near to the grave.” (v.3). Unlike other lament psalms, Psalm 88 contains no praise or affirmation of hope. The psalm ends on a note of despair: “Darkness is my closest friend” (v.18). Sometimes our suffering may seem unbearable, and God may feel distant. Bringing even our darkest emotions honestly before God can begin to shed light on our pain.
The Psalms of lament demonstrate how to bring our pain and despair to our compassionate Creator. We can find God’s comfort and hope amidst suffering and find our own voice to authentically lament before God. In His presence, our weeping gradually turns to hope.