Indispensable Lament


Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression? (Psalm 44:24)

At a recent gathering of our church’s worship ministry, my son Jon made an interesting observation. He noted that while the Western Church as a whole is earnest in celebrating and exalting Jesus, it has forgotten how to lament. Jon’s words held much weight—not because he’s my son, but because I knew his journey. He had just emerged from a long, gut-wrenching chapter and was holding on to Jesus with all he had. Thankfully, Jesus was holding on to him even tighter.

Like many who trudge through the doors of the church during tough times, Jon battled his way into God’s house in search of healing and wholeness—even though every fiber of his flesh wanted to stay isolated in the dark confines of his room. But the barrage of exuberant praise that greeted him as he entered the sanctuary left him feeling alienated and insincere before God. While the voices around him heralded, You’re a good, good Father, Jon’s desolate soul lamented, Where were You when I needed you most?

I’m not saying the worship leader erred in his selection of music that morning, nor am I suggesting that Christ-directed adulation and exaltation can’t lift a burdened soul or counter a spiritual assault. Indeed, they can! All I’m saying is that we can’t always praise our way out of our deepest valleys. Sometimes, we ascend only through the sweat and agony of an all-out, no-holds-barred wrestle with God.

No one understood this better than the psalmist. As G. Brooke Lester, assistant professor of Hebrew Scriptures at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, notes, “In a lament psalm, a petitioner addresses God directly on the occasion of some calamity. Given God’s history with [His] people, the psalmist is comfortable charging God with ‘dereliction of duty’ and unabashedly urges a favorable response.” The psalm then resolves with “some statement of trust concerning God’s proclivity to save and vindicate, and a vow to offer public thanksgiving after God has intervened favorably.” (Maybe a tad analytical, but you get the idea.)

Each day, I hear my son whaling on his guitar and singing his deepest laments to God for hours on end. In so doing, he has discovered a depth of his heavenly Father’s love, compassion, and care he otherwise could not have fathomed. A sincere lament unearths the sometimes-hidden gems of God’s sovereignty and trustworthiness and takes our soul to depths of faith that then give rise to sincere praise.

Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love (Psalm 44:26).

1 response to Indispensable Lament

  1. Dear Mr. Burgo,
    Thank you so much for this important article about an overlooked aspect of music ministry and worship. Your son is one astute young man! So many times it has been God’s Word through music, via Christian radio, my own singing, and in corporate Body worship that has brought comfort and healing ng to my heavy heart.

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