Psalms 1–2 served to ground us for the journey of life. Psalms 146–150 articulated the future that awaits. Now it is time for us as God’s missional people to begin the journey through the heart of the Psalms. The Psalms are God’s prayerbook for God’s missional people. As God’s people, God calls us to live and serve as his missional community that exists to reflect his character to/for/in the nations.
Yet as both Psalms 1 and 2 hinted, life comes with challenges. The world in which we live and breathe is broken and cries out for redemption. God’s mission involves healing creation and reconciling humanity with itself and with Creation. God’s mission also involves inviting hurt and broken people back into relationship with their Creator who loves them.
When we follow Jesus into our broken world, we will experience joy but there will be hardships and challenges. God knows this and provides us prayers for all occasions including those times when we are desperately in need of God’s help. We call the psalms of “Help” the lament psalms. There are more laments in the book of Psalms than any other type of prayer. This is good news. It means that God desires and invites us to bring even our greatest sorrows and most desperate pleas to Him. Our God welcomes us in those times and moments when we find ourselves neck deep in trouble and recognize that we are helpless to save ourselves.
The laments may be the prayers of individuals or written as the communal prayers for groups. The laments cover a wide range of topics from prayers for deliverance from enemies, national catastrophes, illness, and even death.
The laments do not arise from a lack of faith. This is a myth about the prayer for help. Christians sometimes give the impression that we are supposed to be happy all of the time. We use phrases such as “It’s all good” and quote verses such as “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4) to give the false message that Christ followers must always be upbeat and smiling. Sometimes even our worship services can reinforce this by only singing happy songs and offering positive and upbeat sermons. When this happens we paint a false portrait of suffering. Suffering is part of life in this world. People of much faith and little faith will all face challenges in this life. To deny this is to deny life itself.
The Psalter’s inclusion of laments is thus a profound gift from God for those of deep faith who experience suffering as they seek to walk faithfully as God’s missional people. When we cry out to God for help, we do this in the recognition of two realities. First, we recognize that God is loving, merciful, kind, and mighty to save. Second, we acknowledge that our current predicament stands in contrast to our understanding about God. Therefore, in our cry for help, we are asking God to be God and to save us so that we can live and testify to the world of his salvation.
We will enter the world of lament in the next week of posts.