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Lenten Reflections: Psalm 6

By Michael Roop

Many of us have walked through or are currently walking through seasons of life where we can identify with David’s situation in Psalm 6: “I am languishing;” “my soul is greatly troubled;” “every night I flood my bed with tears;” “my eye wastes away because of grief.” These vivid words are a window into David’s soul at one of the lowest moments of his life. He gives words to our stories, to our experiences in a broken, sin-riddled world.

What do we do with this pain? We do what David does: we pray. We come before the Lord, calling on His grace and His steadfast, covenant-faithful love. Now before you roll your eyes at that Sunday school answer, I’ve already observed in my short ministry career how quickly we abandon prayer in times of intense pain and grief. And I think there’s three reasons why we do.

First, we fear the hope that praying gives us. To bring our pain before an all-powerful, infinitely loving God is by definition an expression of hope. Hope that broken relationships can be restored, wayward children can come home, chronic pain can be healed, trauma’s grip can be loosed. Expressing hope makes us vulnerable both by acknowledging our lack of control and by opening ourselves up to the possibility of reliving the pain when hope doesn’t come through.

Second, I think we’ve gravely misunderstood commands in the New Testament to rejoice at all times (Phil. 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16-18). This misunderstanding, often taught from pulpits of Bible-believing churches, creates a detached spirituality, pretending (in the words of the Lego Movie) that “everything is awesome.” This puts a terrible pressure on Christians who add to their pain feelings of shame and inferiority, doubting the quality of their faith as they struggle to find joy.

And third, when our pain isn’t relieved or our situation remains unresolved, we might be tempted to think our prayers aren’t working. This is, perhaps, because we misunderstand the purpose of lament. At this year’s EFCA Theology Conference, Mark Vroegop led a session on lament in the Psalms. He offers this helpful definition of lament: Lament is a prayer in pain that leads to trust.

Lament serves the purpose of restoring our trust in God when our painful circumstances seem incompatible with His goodness and sovereignty. Lament is the ability to live in the tension between the world as it is and the world as it will be. Lament reminds us of the gospel, that all those who are lost in sin can cry out to a gracious and loving God for forgiveness. Lament reminds us that the tears that drench our pillows in the quiet hours of the night will one day be wiped from our cheeks by the very hand of God.

This is why David can end his prayer with an expression of faith: “Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.” During this season of lent, we can lament. We can lament our own sin. We can lament the sin that has been perpetrated against us. We can lament the consequences of sin. We can lament a creation broken and frustrated by sin.

And we can do it because Lent is only 38 more days. Easter is coming.

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