If the book of Psalms can be rightly considered to be the book of worship for the Jews, then there is something missing from our worship experience. The Book of Psalms contains 150 psalms. There are psalms that praise the greatness of God. There are psalms that express thanksgiving to God. There are psalms that were used in worship.
But the largest grouping of psalms is the lament psalms. To lament means “to express sorrow, pain, or regret.” Modern, American Christianity knows nothing of the laments. For example, compare the biblical book of worship to the Baptist Hymnal and look for the “lament section.” Anything that is not “happy snappy” doesn’t fit our image of what it means to faith in God.
So, I submit to you today just one of the many biblical laments. This is the text from Psalm 38.
O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.
For your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down upon me.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body; my bones have no soundness because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.
My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.
I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.
All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes.
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away.
Those who seek my life set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they plot deception.
I am like a deaf man, who cannot hear, like a mute, who cannot open his mouth;
I have become like a man who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply.
I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God.
For I said, “Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my foot slips.”
For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me.
I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.
Many are those who are my vigorous enemies; those who hate me without reason are numerous.
Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good.
O LORD, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God.
Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior.
As you meditate on the laments, let me guide your thoughts with a few questions:
What are the sources of pain for the writer of the lament? How does the writer respond to that pain? Does it lead the writer closer to God or further away? Why are those who lament able to find comfort?