Lament: Bringing Our Complaints to God

“Life begins with tears; it’s simply part of what it means to be human—to cry is human” (Vroegop, 2019, p. 25).  

Life is indeed messy. It is part of the human condition to experience pain, sorrow, and suffering. It is not something most seek out or enjoy but work hard to avoid. We may try to ignore it, to minimize it, to manage it, to medicate it, to push past it. But there will be seasons where struggles will make their home in our lives, often taking center stage and making it difficult to focus on anything else or to function as we normally would. Where do we go in times of trouble? Where do we turn? David shows us a path forward in many of the Psalms. One such example is found in Psalm 13 (NIV):

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.

We need not suffer in silence. David shows us how to (1) turn to God in faith, (2) to humbly bring our complaints to Him, (3) to boldly make our requests known, and (4) to express our trust in Him. This is what it means to Lament. According to Vroegop (2019), “Lament is the language of people who believe in God’s sovereignty but live in a world with tragedy” (p. 44).

I am often challenged by the second step of lamenting, the complaint. It seems that earlier in my life, emphasis was placed more on steps 1, 3, and 4–to turn to God, to ask boldly, and to express trust. It did not seem permissible to bring my complaints to God. This would mean that the focus was on me and not on the Lord, and to complain would demonstrate a lack of faith. Wasn’t that considered grumbling anyway? I always wondered how David could get away with this and still be considered a man after God’s own heart. For me, this meant my only option was to suffer in silence and to function with a smile on my face. At times I would allow the complaints to seep out to others but did not take them to the Lord. Looking back now, it may have been out of fear of retribution through a lack of understanding of grace. I have learned over time that through His grace, God wants to be present in our pain. He desires to meet us in the messiness of life. If we skip over or minimize the pain, we miss the opportunity for God to meet us in this suffering. He is the one who chose to come to this earth and experience ultimate suffering so that we might be redeemed. In not allowing God to be present in our suffering, we miss the opportunity for true peace as well as for deeper experience of praise and thanksgiving.

Lament invites us to humbly lay out the specifics of our complaints to the Lord on a regular basis—no matter how big or how small. As we outline our struggles and sit with their impact, it is from a place of hope: “A hope that God will hear and respond, that God is with us even when such a thing seems impossible, and that God will continue to persist in relationship with us amidst our suffering, pain, agony, and anger” (Neff & McMann, 2020). Through lament, we become more attuned to what really matters in life—to the “bigger story of the holiness of God and the hope of the gospel.” (Vroegop, 2019, p. 92)

This means to me that I no longer need to feel compelled to push past or ignore my suffering. When I go to the Lord with my complaint, He meets me there. My hope is not in answered prayer to my suffering, but in His continued presence with me. Many of us have heard, “This is my struggle, BUT God is still good.” In true lamenting, we can lean into “This is my struggle, AND God is still good.” Through lamenting we learn how to hold both truths: in this life there IS hardship AND God IS still good. Our suffering does not discount His goodness, nor His goodness discount our suffering. God is with us through the struggle, not despite it.

-Mickey Jensen – learn more about working with Mickey here!

Neff, M. A., & McMinn, M. R. (2020). Embodying integration: A fresh look at Christianity in the therapy room. InterVarsity Press.

Vroegop, M. (2019). Dark clouds, deep mercy: Discovering the grace of lament. Crossway.

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