*This is Part II of a two-part series on lament, and was previously titled “Lenting and Lamenting, Part II: Hurting with God. Because it is also meant to be a more general resource for those wanting to learn how to lament in a way that acknowledges God in the process, I have decided to change the title to reflect that. You can read Part I of this series, introducing the concept of lament, here.*
In our fallen and broken world, where sin, oppression, and injustice reign, we need a way to acknowledge these things with the God that we worship. However, much of our language–much of our worship–has been sugar-coated and filtered out to the point where we have forgotten how to come to God with our struggles. Our Sunday mornings have become “Tomlin-ized”–all of our worship is upbeat, happy, and, honestly, a bit monotonous.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with joyous worship music, receiving it in excess with no lament to balance it out can prove to be detrimental to one’s faith. Christians must learn and seek to understand lament again. But finding Christian resources that address lament can be difficult, so I’ve decided to dedicate this post to providing all who are interested with a number of resources (books, blog posts, liturgies, psalms, and songs) through which they can seek to bring their struggles to God in a more holistic way. If you are interested in any of them, I included links to everything–ev.ery.thing.–here, so all you have to do is simply click. So without further ado:
Hurting With God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms–Glenn Pemberton.
This book might very well be one of the best resources around when it comes to approaching lament in a healthy and meaningful way. It argues that through the use of the psalms, we can approach our hardships in a way that actively includes God; instead of making our suffering something distinctly separate from God, we are choosing to hurt with him. It was written by Dr. Glenn Pemberton, who was one of my professors here at Abilene Christian University, and who is also among the leading scholars alive on the usage of lament in the Bible. He has also written a follow-up book called After Lament: Psalms for Learning to Trust Again, and he currently maintains a Facebook page on which he writes his own laments concerning present day situations.
Learning to Walk in the Dark—Barbara Brown Taylor.
This book, which has been much more commercially recognized, was written by Episcopalian pastor Barbara Brown Taylor. In this book, Brown Taylor recounts the struggles she has faced in her own life and talks about all that she has learned about her faith by choosing to embrace “the darkness” of life. A quote from the book says,
When, despite all my best efforts, the lights have gone off in my life, plunging me into the kind of darkness that turns my knees to water, I have not died. The monsters have not dragged me out of bed and taken me back to their lair. Instead, I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.
Other Books (found from online searches; I have not read any of them, but I have checked to see if they are valid resources):
Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament—Michael Card
Spirit Speech: Lament and Celebration in Preaching—Luke Powery
Psalms of Lament—Ann Weems (she is a poet, and these are psalms of lament that she wrote herself)
In The House of the Lord: Inhabiting the Psalms of Lament–Michael Jinkins
Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer–Eugene Peterson
Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering–Timothy Keller
Writings on the Wall: Prayers, Psalms, and Laments of the Rising Culture—Brian Heasley (this one looks incredibly interesting)
The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed–C. S. Lewis
Dark Night of the Soul–St. John of the Cross (16th Century Christian Mystic): PDF and Amazon
PSALMS AND LECTIONARIES
Lament Psalms (straight from crivoice.org)
Community: 12, 44, 58, 60, 74, 79, 80, 83, 85, 89, 90, 94, 123, 126, 129
Individual: 3, 4, 5, 7, 9-10, 13, 14, 17, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31, 36, 39, 40:12-17, 41, 42-43, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61, 64, 70, 71, 77, 86, 89, 120, 139, 141, 142
Specialized Lament Psalms (also from crivoice.org)
Penitential (i.e., psalms asking God for forgiveness): 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143
Imprecatory (i.e., curses on the writers’/God’s “enemies”): 35, 69, 83, 88, 109, 137, 140
(Also Read: Job, Jeremiah, Lamentations)
SONGS AND ARTISTS
Music has ways of impacting us that few other things ever could. Music that’s able to affect you in your hardest times is music that’s worth taking note of. So here are some Christian artists who have embraced the art of lament along with a few of their notable songs and even albums dedicated to it.
This little-known indie band, created by John Ardnt and David Gungor and driven by the sounds of beautifully arranged piano/string quartet music, has filled a lot of voids for me in regards to songs of lament. In a music industry that’s full of mostly poorly-written and half-hearted expressions of praise, The Brilliance is not afraid to dig down deep into their souls and take their inner struggles to God. This particular song above is actually from an album they wrote specifically for the season of Lent, and is, in fact, actually called Lent. Other notable laments are “Lord, Please Save Me” and “Your Love Remains” from their album Cavetime: A Worship Experience (which is also a good Lent album), “Mercy” from their self-titled album; “Oh Earth” and “Will we Ever Rise” from their newest album All is Not Lost.
David Crowder is among the few musicians I know who has successfully managed to be deeply embedded in the Christian music industry and yet is still innovative and distinctly unique, offering music that spans all sorts of genres such as rock, techno, folk, or even a combination of the three (see his latest album: Neon Steeple). Furthermore, he’s never been afraid of addressing the darker sides of faith (DC*B’s last album, Give Us Rest, is a requiem/funeral mass). Some of his/their laments include:
“Deliver Me” from Illuminate;
“Oh, God, Where Are You Now?” and “Rescue is Coming” in A Collision;
“Never Let Go“, “Remedy“, and “Surely We Can Change” in Remedy;
“Shadows“, “SMS (Shine)“, and “Can I Lie Here?” in Church Music;
“Oh Great God, Give Us Rest“, “God, Have Mercy“, and “Sometimes” in Give Us Rest;
and “Come As You Are” and “My Sweet Lord” (above) in Neon Steeple.
This band is led by Michael Gungor (who is the brother of the aforementioned David Gungor), and his wife, Lisa. You might know their song, “Beautiful Things” (which is itself ultimately a lament) or you might know the band for other reasons that will not be discussed in this particular post. Some of their songs of lament include “Dry Bones” and “Please Be My Strength” (above), which are both on the Beautiful Things album; “The Fall” from Ghosts Upon the Earth; and “Wandering” from I Am Mountain.
Robbie Seay Band:
Among the many things he’s good at, Robbie Seay is just, pure and simple, a wonderful poet. When you listen to his songs, you just know that every word and every syllable was planned out and put there for a purpose. Fortunately, he also puts those words to good use through his music, which isn’t too shabby, itself. Some of his notable laments are “Shine Your Light On Us” from Give Yourself Away; “Lament (We Cannot Wait)” in Miracle; and “Rest” (above) in Rich and Poor (which happens to be one of my favorite albums of all time). He also has released several independent EP’s based on a few of the Psalms, and laments are included there as well (check out this instrumental interpretation of Psalm 42 and 43, after you read the chapters here).
Contemporary Songs (Organized Alphabetically by Artist):
“Brokenness Aside”–All Sons and Daughters
“I Need You to Love Me”; “Never Alone”; “Porcelain Heart”–BarlowGirl
“Praise You In This Storm”; “If We’ve Ever Needed You”; “Jesus, Hold Me Now”–Casting Crowns
“Carry Me”–Jenny and Tyler (featuring Mac Powell of Third Day)
“How He Loves (Original)”–John Mark McMillan. Also read the story behind it here.
“I Will Trust in You, My God”–Matt Papa
“The Hurt and the Healer” and “Hungry”–MercyMe
“Sweet, Holy Spirit”–NewWorldSon
“The Light Will Come”–Phil Wickham
“I’m Not Alright”–Sanctus Real
“Wounded”–Shane & Shane
“Oh God, Where Are You Now? (Original)”–Sufjan Stevens
“Hold My Heart” and “Worn”–Tenth Avenue North
OTHER BLOG POSTS:
“Learning to Lament: Giving Voice to the Christian Winter Experience” and “Worship Songs Aren’t Just for God: On Lament and Old Hymn Books“–Dr. Richard Beck (blogger and professor of Psychology at Abilene Christian University):
“What Does Lament Mean? A Biblical Definition of Lament or Lamenting“–Jack Wellman on Patheos
“How to Write your own Psalm of Lament“–Ann Arbor on vineyard.org
“A Playlist of Songs of Lament“–Jordan Monge (This is more a compilation of “secular” laments rather than “Christian” laments [I hate those labels]. You might end up needing these just as much if not more than the ones I listed above.)