When you read the lament Psalms are you comforted? Do you feel God’s care for your plight? Over the years I’ve had a number of conversations about this topic. Some find great comfort in reading about God’s concern for his people in the midst of their suffering. Others prefer to hang out in more positive, praise oriented passages in order to meditate on the good things God is doing. Some find more comfort in realism now, others find comfort in expectantly meditating on heaven.
How about you? How about those you might try to comfort in their time of misery? Does empathizing with the depths of trouble being faced (e.g., “Wow, what you are going through is incredibly hard!”) help or does it endanger more depressing thoughts? Does talking of ultimate delivery in heaven help or distance you from your friend? It is key for us to find out as we walk with those going through the valley.
3 responses to “Comfort is in the eye of the beholder”
I’m not a theologian, so I’m not sure what a definitive list of the lament psalms are. But I do find comfort in some of the really dark psalms. They seem so real in the midst of depression. The ones that I find most helpful, though, are the ones where in the midst of the lament the psalmist offers a kernel of hope or truth. Like I think of Ps 44 which concludes “We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground. Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love.” or Ps 80 that says “Restore us, O Lord God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.” or even Ps 12 where the psalmist calls to mind the truth of God’s word in the midst of the lament. I think that is one of the keys to honoring God in depression… feeling the darkness and expressing that to God but then choosing to trust in his deliverance all the same, and cling with all our might to whatever little kernel of hope and truth we have.
That’s an interesting question that is definitely worth asking and answering. I find that the lament psalms, where the psalmist expresses the hardship and desperation he is experiencing are comforting in a limited sense when I’m experiecing the same sorts of feelings. I gain a sense of universality when I read that even those God spoke through felt distant and abandoned from God (I also find much comfort in Jesus’ response to God before going to the cross, that he would rather not die!)
However, those psalms of lament only comfort in the midst of deep pain, in the midst of the storm. I can’t stay there because I need to move on to hope. Not just to be positive, but because I really need hope! Many of the psalms begin with suffering, fear, and anger at God for that experience, and then move on to express the deep hope they have in the Lord.
Thank God he’s given us his word for all the times in our lives…
As a pastoral counselor, I encourage my clients to begin to read through the Psalms and journal their responses to God over what they read. There they will find “a man after God’s own heart” who struggles with depression, hurt, anger, joy, sorrow, life, death, fear, loss, passion … all the things that we struggle with now. And yet, he ends up praising God. The Psalmist models for us how to be real about what we are really dealing with – and shows how it’s possible to bring it all to His Creator. Clients seem to work through their pain at a quicker pace as they relate to someone godly who’s “been there.”