Complaining to God (Instead of Facebook)
We lament everyday. Facebook has become an atmosphere of lament. We watch the news and lament about our society. A biblical practice of lament goes beyond voicing one’s concerns over the state of our culture. Biblical lament was very personal. Something was happening in the life of the psalmist (laments are most often found in the Psalms), and God needed to hear about it. One author says that protest is a better description than lament or complaint, because lament suggests an acceptance of victim status.
Protests do not accept. Protests are addressed to someone, meant to get him to do something about it. We respond to the violence of this world not by agnosticism—unsure of whether God even exists or wants to do something about our situation—but by “protest theism,” belief in God who can and does intervene. We don’t give up, but add the concept of protest to our vocabulary.
Prayers of lament are the most common form of prayer in the psalms. People tell God all about the bad stuff going on in their lives all the time. There are six basic elements to a psalm of lament that appear in almost all of them.
- Address. The psalmist identifies God as the one he is praying to.
- Complaint. The psalmist pours out an honest and forceful complaint. He identifies the trouble and why he needs the Lord.
- Trust. The psalmist tells God he trusts Him. His trust extends to letting God answer the prayer however God sees fit.
- Deliverance. The psalmist asks God to rescue him from the situation.
- Assurance. The psalmist says that he knows God will rescue him.
- Praise. The psalmist praises God for his blessings, whether past, present or future.
Psalm 3 is one example.
Address (v. 1a)
1Lord, how many are my foes!
Complaint (vv. 1b-2)
How many rise up against me!
2Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”
Trust (vv. 3-6)
3But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the one who lifts my head high.
4I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.
5I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
6I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.
Deliverance (v. 7a)
Deliver me, my God!
Assurance (v. 7b)
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.
Praise (v. 8)
8From the Lord comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.
What might a healthy place for lament do for us spiritually?
- It might cause us to stop gossiping. We don’t need to tell a third party about what so-and-so did if we’re always telling God.
- It might cause us to stop worrying. Why worry about the troubles of life if God is ready to help?
- It might give us hope instead of despair. If we tell God, we trust He will do something.
- It might give us justice. We no longer need to defend our names or honor. We don’t have to get revenge. We let God handle it and go through the mud with Him.
I am convinced that this form of prayer is desperately needed today. May we begin to tell God what’s wrong, ask Him for deliverance and change, and then trust Him to act and give us wisdom for how to respond.