Being Honest with God
Of the 150 psalms in the Bible’s hymnbook, 64 of them are categorized by scholars as lament psalms. Laments are “complaints and expressions of sadness and disappointment with God.” (1) While that percentage may be shocking, it should also be encouraging. God understands the human heart. And many of those who knew him best found times when they had complaints to express against him.
Who among us has not at some point been disappointed with God? Or felt he was far away when we needed him most? Or just are depressed with the situation in which we find ourselves? Why doesn’t God do something?
Let’s take a look at what David, one of God’s favorite people, wrote when he was frustrated by God’s apparent distance:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, 4 lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. - Psalm 13
We learn some things from this psalm about David’s situation and his reaction to it. He feels God has abandoned him. He talks to himself in sadness all day long (I call it “mulling and stewing” – do you ever do that?). There are people fighting against him, and God is not helping to defeat them.
After expressing his complaint, David asks God to pay attention to his plea and save him from his enemy. Then the tone of the psalm turns. David seems to have a refreshed understanding of God – loving, faithful, and one who saves. Even though his circumstances haven’t changed, he vows to trust what he knows of God’s character and anticipates being able to rejoice in the salvation God will provide. He closes with a song of praise to God for his gracious dealings with him.
What just happened here? David’s honesty with God opened his eyes in a way that an insincere prayer would not be able to do. God knows our hearts and expects us to be transparent with him. When we are, he reveals his unchanging love toward us and, for the time, we accept that as enough, and our anxiety begins to change to calm and our frustration to hope.
Perhaps lament psalms are prevalent because God knows we can relate to them. He is with us. He loves us. But he does allow us to go through circumstances we don’t like, and he doesn’t rescue us nearly as quickly as we want him to. It’s OK to tell him that - as long we are willing to accept that he will respond in accordance with his plan for us, not necessarily in accordance with our plan for ourselves. That’s what it means to live by faith!
(1) J.P. Moreland. Finding Quiet (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2019), p. 166.