October 1, 2023
What do you do when you find yourself in the pit? Let’s face it, we all find ourselves in circumstances of sorrow, disappointment, fear, grief, or pain that the best way to describe the situation is calling it a pit. The psalmist David actually described coming out of the pit by the grace of God in Psalm 40.
Psalm 40:1–3 (ESV) — 1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.
Obviously, Psalm 40 points to waiting patiently for the Lord to bring you out of the pit, but what do you do while you are waiting? Too many times we catch ourselves complaining either about the situation, about what appears to be the slowness of God to answer our pleas, or even about the injustice that this has happened to us. Is there a better way?
The answer is found in at least a third of the Psalms, as well as seen other places throughout the Bible. The answer is to lament your way out of the pit. Psalm 77 is a classic example as the psalmist recalls his lamenting experience in song. There are basic parts to a lament and the four are easy to pick out: an address to God, an honest complaint about the situation, a request, and a statement of faith and trust in God to do what is right. Remember Psalm 77 is a description of the use of a lament as if telling the story of lamenting his way out of the pit, finding God ministering to him as he laments.
Psalm 77:1–3 (ESV) — 1 I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. 2 In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. 3 When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
It’s interesting how he addresses God in a state of dependency and backs it up with a statement of trust. Notice also how he affirms that in the day of trouble he goes to the place of refuge, and though his soul refuses to be comforted and his spirit faints, he turns to God.
Psalm 77:4–6 (ESV) — 4 You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. 5 I consider the days of old, the years long ago. 6 I said, “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search:
As he begins his complaint to God, which is fine amid a lament, otherwise it’s sin to murmur and complain. It seems in the lament, a complaint is simply the way that God ministers to us as we dump out our hurts, being totally honest and open with Him.
Psalm 77:7–9 (ESV) — 7 “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? 8 Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah
In an almost passive aggressive manner, the psalmist makes his requests known to God in seeking God’s favor, His mercy or evidence of His steadfast love, His grace, and His compassion. Do you feel the hurt?
Psalm 77:10–15 (ESV) — 10 Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.” 11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. 12 I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. 13 Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? 14 You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. 15 You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
As soon as the cup is empty from dumping the complaint and the passive aggressive requests, it appears the Spirit of God moves upon the psalmist to bring to remembrance the deeds of the Lord and the reason to trust Him.
Psalm 77:16–20 (ESV) — 16 When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. 17 The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. 18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. 19 Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. 20 You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Concluding with the greatness of God over all creation as well as His greatness displayed in the history of redemption, the healing balm of the lament has raised the psalmist from the pit of despair to the place of finding peace in trusting God.
There is great value in reading the laments in the book of Psalms as well as other places in the Bible knowing that these are real people lamenting their way out of real pits of sorrow and despair, but the real value of lament is to write your own when you find yourself in a pit. You could probably voice a lament by thinking about the four parts and allowing the words to flow to God from your heart, but you will find extra value in taking the time to write the lament. Having a record to look back upon and see how God has brought you out of the pit will give you added reason for gratitude and hope.
This past year our Bible study group studied on Jeremiah Burroughs’ “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” and although Burroughs did not use the word lament or advocate the principles exactly, his emphasis in finding contentment in every circumstance opens the door to logically turn to lamenting instead of merely complaining.
Just to review, the four elements of a lament are:
- Addressing God.
- Stating your honest complaint about your situation.
- Making your request from God.
- Affirming your faith in God’s sovereign care to do what is perfect.
Isn’t it sad to see so much complaining today, especially among Christians? Maybe the best response when someone complains is to say, “Have you considered a lament?” Then use the occasion to explain the four parts, take them to Psalm 77 or one of the many other laments where the writer laments his way out of the pit. Lamenting is God’s way of dealing with the pit of sorrow, discouragement, grief, etc. Don’t pass up the blessing – learn to take your burden to the Lord by way of a lament.
Bob Brubaker, Pastor