Lament and Hope

Read: Psalm 102:1-22

My heart is stricken and withered like grass. (v. 4 NRSV)

My father died while I was working on this set of devotions. Although he lived to be 91, and although he had been declining the past several months, his death came as a surprise. He went to the hospital, fell asleep, and didn’t wake up. As I wrestled with a myriad of emotions following this event—from shock to sadness to grief to gratitude—I saw for the first time the intimate and necessary relationship between lament and hope.

My father’s death is too recent and raw for me to write much about. For now, the words of the Psalms are carrying me. Psalms of lament, like Psalm 102, express my feelings. When I read the psalmist as he says his “heart is stricken and withered like grass”, I feel a lump in my throat and moisture in my eyes. This psalm even goes deeper and darker than the way I feel: I have had friends in chemotherapy identify with lines like, “my bones burn like a furnace” (v. 3) and “my bones cling to my flesh” (v. 5).

Every psalm of lament goes down into dark places, but none goes into a place where God’s love isn’t deeper still (as Corrie Ten Boom’s sister explained to her when they were in a Nazi concentration camp). Psalms of lament recognize the weight of sadness we sometimes feel. “But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever,” verse 12 says, as this psalm turns from lament to hope. God’s presence and constancy are lifelines to cling to when we lament. —Jeff Munroe

As you pray, rest in the knowledge that God understands.

About the Author

Jeff Munroe

Jeff Munroe is the editor of theReformed Journaland, in addition to being the author of the best-selling book Reading Buechner: Exploring the Work of a Master Memoirist, Novelist, Theologian, and Preacher, is also a poet, blogger, and essayist. His work has appeared in Christianity Today, The Christian Century, US Catholic, and The Reformed Journal.

This entry is part 7 of 15 in the series Hopeful, Not Optimistic