Healthy laments end with hope
By Pastor David Sorensen, Evangelical Lutheran Church, Cokato
“You know, sometimes it feels better when you moan a little bit.”
That’s what our sick daughter, Jillian, said when, at age nine, she learned the healing benefits of the lament of the soul.
Did you know that the most common type of Psalm is the lament, which is defined as an outward expression of sorrow? About one-third of all psalms in the Bible are laments.
It is healthy to pour out in God’s hearing, one’s hurts, frustrations, disappointments, fears, anxieties, guilt, and grief. A lament expresses a purging of the bad and an openness to the good action of God in one’s life.
It’s important to note, however, that a lament in the Bible almost never ends with the negative view. Once the hurt has been expressed, the lament usually ends with an expression of confidence that God will make things better in the end.
It’s okay to lament. It’s okay to grieve, then move on with the expectation that God will do something about it.
That might be confusing if you read the King James version of I Thessalonians 4:13, which says we are to “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” This verse appears to say that we are not to grieve at all, unless we want to be like the hopeless masses who have not Christ.
The KJV was an incredible translation in its time, but Bible scholars throughout the last century almost universally make a small correct change that makes all the difference. In essence, they put the comma back where it belongs so that it indicates we are to “grieve, not as those who have no hope.”
See the difference? This translation, faithful to the original New Testament Greek, gives us permission to grieve and better matches the laments of the Psalms.
The key to a powerful lament is to pour one’s heart out to God in all sincerity while, in the same breath, having hope that God will be able to do something about one’s situation. In God’s way. In God’s time.
Read the Psalms. Good examples of laments are Psalms 13, 22, 56, and 79.
Come to think of it, are you actually reading the Bible these days? I’m going to go out on a limb and give you an invitation.
Here at Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cokato, we have been giving away free Bibles, more than 15 cases of Bibles in the past six months. to people who need a version that is easy to read. We’ve chosen the newish Contemporary English Version from the American Bible Society, the choice of Promise Keepers and many others.
Many versions work well for study, but this is one of the very best for a smooth read-through. That fits, since the New Testament was written not in classical style. but in the kind of Greek people used in love letters or spoke on the streets.
Like hundreds of individuals before you, all you need to do to pick up your free copy is simply pledge to read at least the New Testament (or even the entire Bible) over the next year.
Read one chapter of the New Testament each day and finish before school’s out in the spring. Or read three chapters a day and finish the entire Bible in under a year.
If you have your own worthy Bible sitting on a dusty top shelf somewhere, pull that one down and read. One way or another, let’s be people of the Living Word.
Join us in praying for renewal/revival/re-formation. Blessings on the journey!