How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me. — Psalm 13
In the Book of Psalms, 67 are psalms of lament—songs that cry out to God in burden or complaint. In fact, these songs of angst make up the majority of Psalms. Although there are words of address, confession, trustworthiness, petition, and hints foreshadowing salvation within these songs, it was suffering, not praise, that inspired these songs of the heart.
As a trauma therapist, I have seen a lot of suffering. The human condition is fraught with illness, decline, anxiety, isolation, fear, confusion, and ultimately, death. It is in these moments that we, like the psalmist, seek God’s face. Even those who have strayed from God secretly cry out in hopes of seeing God’s face to bring about healing. As we enter into the one year anniversary of this pandemic, I have heard from many clients a form of lament. They are enveloped in pain. Add to that the trials of human life – including death, and it can seem a true path of despair.
In these dark times, though the soul still retains its capacity for faith, hope, and meaningful encounter, there is still an urgent need within us to cry out to God in complaint. The hefty inclusion of psalms of lament in the biblical canon assures us that God not only welcomes our complaints, but also that these are music to his ears. Imagine that: a God who does not feel defensive when we shout at him in honest agony! Rather, ours is a God who wrestles with us through pressing anxiety to urgent prayer and, ultimately, to expectant rejoicing.
Lent is a time for wrestling within as we wander through our wildernesses. It is a time of lamenting the felt separation from our Creator. It is also a time of coming to a deeper experience of the One who has called us to himself. In the world today, we are encouraged to bury any suffering within, ignoring the necessary wrestling we must do with the deep woes of our soul. God says, “No!” God encourages the wilderness because that’s where we learn to rely upon his strength.
My hope for all of us during this season is that we are able to live honestly before God and find within us the boldness to struggle with God so deeply that at times, only a well-crafted poem of complaint will suffice.