Welcome to Week 5 of our devotional series on those common Christian beliefs that have been overlooked or misunderstood. As people of “faith,” we tend not to think too highly of what the Bible calls “lament.” Lament is that complaining, crying, whining, wailing, moaning, sobbing, and angrily shaking our fist at God that we often want to do but don’t think we should. It’s definitely not something we usually include in our Sunday services, and yet, maybe it’s the most important thing we could ever do. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann once described the Bible’s many psalms of lament as our refusal “to settle for things as they are.” When we complain to God, Brueggemann explains, we’re doing more than just saying things aren’t okay; we’re expressing a hope that with God’s help they’ll one day get better. So, why then do we so often shy away from lament? Might there be an important place for such complaining in our worship and our daily lives? Let’s take a look… 


God Who Hears, help us to see the purpose, power, and appropriateness of lamenting the pains and struggles of our world. Give us the faith to hope as we refuse to settle for the status quo. Amen.


Psalm 44:23-26
Get up, God! Are you going to sleep all day?
    Wake up! Don’t you care what happens to us?
Why do you bury your face in the pillow?
    Why pretend things are just fine with us?
And here we are—flat on our faces in the dirt,
    held down with a boot on our necks.
Get up and come to our rescue.
    If you love us so much, Help us!

Psalm 13:1-2
Long enough, God—
    you’ve ignored me long enough.
I’ve looked at the back of your head
    long enough. Long enough
I’ve carried this ton of trouble,
    lived with a stomach full of pain.
Long enough my arrogant enemies
    have looked down their noses at me.


“Red Letters” — Words and Music by David Crowder (YouTube video for in-home worship: Click here for Video)

There I was on death row
Guilty in the first degree
Son of God hanging on a hill
Hell was my destiny

The crowd was shouting crucify
Could’ve come from these lips of mine
The dirty shame was killing me
It would take a miracle to wash me clean

Then I read the red letters
And the ground began to shake
The prison walls started falling
And I became a free man that day

Felt like lightning hit my veins
My dead heart began to beat
Breath of God filled my lungs
And the Holy Ghost awakened me
Yeah, the Holy Ghost awakened me

When I read the red letters
And the ground began to shake
The prison walls started falling
And I became a free man that day

For God so loved the whole wide world
Sent his only Son to die for me
Arms spread wide for the whole wide world
His arms spread wide where mine should be
Jesus changed my destiny

Thank You, God, for red letters
When the ground began to shake
The grace of God started falling
And I became a free man that day
The prison walls started falling
And I am a free man today


During these dog days of summer, it’s common for kids to dream up imaginary friends, but Marty, my three-year-old, has taken things to a new level. Instead of imaginary friends, he’s created imaginary personalities. Just yesterday, we were playing at a park in Northside when I heard him insist to a new (and very real) friend that his name was not Marty. It was Evan. I had to laugh. Over the past few months, Marty has demanded we call him “Speed,” “Troy,” and sometimes “Axel,” usually depending on the cartoon he’s been watching that day. But yesterday’s turn to Evan was new, and it reminded me of how many times the Old Testament refers to God using different names, too. There are generic ones like Lord and King, but along the way we also get more descriptive names like Jehovah Jirah, which means “The Lord Will Provide” (Genesis 22:14).  

Maybe my favorite name for God in the Bible comes at the end of the story of a woman named Hagar. You can find it in Genesis 16. Hagar has just started to show that she’s pregnant, and because of that, her barren mistress, Sarai, is jealous and cruel. So, Hagar runs away, only to find herself standing face to face with God. He tells her to turn around and go home “for the Lord has given heed to your affliction.” With much thanks, Hagar then decides to give God a new name, Elroi, “The God Who Sees.” Sees what? The God who sees Hagar in all her pain and anger and lostness.

The Bible is full of stories like this — stories about people feeling down and out who are struggling to understand the world around them and who complain to a God they’re not even sure is paying attention anymore. And yet, they also hope like Hagar that God might indeed turn around and see them. As we get deeper and deeper into the Old Testament, these times of lament become more and more frequent and strident. Psalm 44 borders on sacrilege when it accuses God of sleeping past lunch and not giving a flip about his own people. Psalm 13 goes even further as it wages war on God’s morality and literally commands him to pay attention. These are hard laments, and the Bible is full of them. There’s even a book called Lamentations, which is written ironically by the prophet Jeremiah, who is also known for some of the most hopeful and encouraging texts in all of scripture. 

We have been taught to think that complaining to God like these texts do is out of bounds. It’s a sign of a lack of faith, we’re told. But in truth, lamentation might be the most honest and authentic kind of prayer we could ever make. Richard Rohr has noted just how much trust and patience is required “to remain stunned, sad, and silenced by the tragedy and absurdity of human events.” We want to turn away and hide from it all, but we can’t afford to do so. Why? Because not to lament is to ignore reality; it’s to ignore our neighbors and the real presence of sin and evil in the world. Indeed, we must believe that God is just as sad and frustrated at the way things are as we are. So, when we raise our laments, we’re only joining our cries with God’s own tears.

The Apostle Paul suggests in Romans 8 that lament is even the Holy Spirit’s own form of prayer. “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” The Message translates what the Spirit prays as “our wordless sighs, our aching groans.” God’s own self laments with us and for us, never giving up hope.

What to do then? As you slowly walk through your days this week, don’t shy away from lament. Let it out. Give it to God. As Hagar learned so long ago, the “God Who Sees” knows what’s going on, and he can take our anger and our accusation. You’re not going to hurt his feelings. You’re only going to be joining in with God’s own deep pain over the sin and evil in our world — and the hope that one day it will all be healed.

Closing Prayer

God of Hope, thank you for listening to our complaints and our anger and our pain — and thank you beyond everything else for sharing in them with us. Amen.

    – Richard Rohr, “Communal Lament,” Center for Action and Contemplation, last modified July 28, 2021,