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Carl Trueman, “What Can Miserable Christians Sing?” in The Wages of Spin (pp. 159-160):

Perhaps . . . [the Western church] has drunk so deeply at the well of modern Western materialism that it simply does not know what to do with such cries and regards them as little short of embarrassing.

A diet of unremittingly jolly choruses and hymns inevitably creates an unrealistic horizon of expectation which sees the normative Christian life as one long triumphalist street party—a theologically incorrect and a pastorally disastrous scenario in a world of broken individuals.

Has an unconscious belief that Christianity is—or at least should be—all about health, wealth, and happiness corrupted the content of our worship?

. . . In the psalms, God has given the church a language which allows it to express even the deepest agonies of the human soul in the context of worship.

Does our contemporary language of worship reflect the horizon of the expectation regarding the believer’s experience which the psalter proposes as normative?

If not, why not?

Is it because the comfortable values of Western middle-class consumerism have silently infiltrated the church and made us consider such cries irrelevant, embarrassing, and signs of abject failure?

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16 thoughts on “Do Our Worship Songs Have Room for Lament?”

  1. Christopher de Vidal says:

    In my (relatively) dark time I’m singing this:
    * SGM – God Moves
    * Matthew Smith – The Lord Will Provide

    What do you sing in dark times?

    1. Morgan says:

      Lo The Storms of Life are Breaking and Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul from Indelible Grace; Weary of Earth, Myself and Sin by Red Mountain Church.

    2. Psalm 62 (Aaron Keyes)

      Out of the Depths (Psalms – Sovereign Grace Ministries)

    3. Daniel says:

      Thou hidden love of God.

  2. ShaunLittle says:

    @Christopher de Vidal

    Psalm 69

  3. michael henry says:

    To the first question: way over my head
    To the second: Don’t know, I’d have to fully understand 1
    To the 3rd: absolutely. Except it’s not silent.

    But as an aside, lest we think we in the “west” are so evil and other parts of the world more evangelical, make no mistake in thinking that if the third world or any struggling group gains affluence, the same problems both physically and spiritually will not follow. With affluence tv comes before Bible sales, With the “liberation” of identity groups comes rejection of orthodoxy, and with contextualization comes “that’s your truth”.

    “..that saved a wretch like me”

  4. Tony says:

    I have found the Australian group Sons of Korah CDs great they sing the psalms to mostly acoustic instruments. I also introduced Psalm 13 (Brian Doerksen) to our church. We felt a little strange to sing such things at first but it was very powerful and important to have ready in our repertoire.

  5. Carlos says:

    I always go back to this one:

    “Come Weary Saints” by Sovereign Grace Music

    “A Sweet & Bitter Providence” by The Joy Eternal is good for times of lament as well as many songs done by Indelible Grace Music which was already mentioned.

  6. LB says:

    I have heard Sojourn Music is currently working on a new CD that will be all songs of lament.

  7. gary r says:

    Even when we come up with one that could help begin to fill this void — e.g., Matt Redman’s Blessed Be Your Name — we (seemingly) mindlessly sing it as yet another “jolly chorus.”

    Given the source of that particular text is Job 1, it might be good to contemplate his predicament and sing it “feeling his pain” — not to mention the pain of those who might be standing around us.

  8. Brent Hobbs says:

    One song that comes to my mind is Shadows by David Crowder Band.

  9. Andrew says:

    I understand the comments. I agree that the Psalms are filled with laments. However, we live in the New Covenant. The Messiah has come. Jesus has raised from the dead. Victory has been won. I do not see any New Testament prededent for worship that is “lamenting” in nature. I think we need to be real careful not to confuse the Old Covenant from the New Covenant in Christ. Christians should have joy, exude hope, and sing with a smile. The Kingdom is here.

    1. And in another very real sense, the Kingdom is “not yet” here. Thus, the lament.

    2. Shaun RW Little says:

      Although there is a sense that the ‘Kingdom is here’, just as the Lord had said ‘It is Finished’, there is also the sense that Brad mentions that it is ‘Not Yet’ and in this we await the full manifestation and completion of that reality He accomplished on the cross. We are pilgrim’s here, we have not yet arrived. And the pilgrimage is filled with hardship brother. We groan to be clothed in our heavenly dwelling, apart from sickness, and pain, and sadness. To no longer struggle with our indwelling sin, to no longer be at war with our own selves. To no longer mourn for the lost, to no longer behold the suffering of others.

      There is a lot we could and should lament for, and there is nothing wrong with expressing our brokenness in worship. God is always near the broken hearted, and lifts up the downtrodden. In that vulnerability and weakness I believe His strength is manifested in such an amazing way…

      To be honest I get irritated sometimes with all the happy clappy worship. Its seems superficial and unrealistic at times. Worship and worship music should come from the depths of our hearts, and sometimes there are deep pains and difficulties we hold inside. Those aren’t overcome simply by covering it up and telling ourselves we are victors while smiling and clapping along. Sometimes healing comes through falling on our knees in tears and bearing our hearts before Him and taking comfort that He sympathizes and even laments with us as well.

      1. Andrew says:

        I am fully aware of the “already, not yet” tension of the kingdom. Every serious student of Scripture understands this. Furthermore, the Biblical emphasis on worship in “spirit and truth” (John 4) is also obvious. Someone who worships superficially (as you stated Shaun) is obviously not Biblical in any sense of the word. That, however, is not the issue that has been raised in this post.

        The issue raised concerns the legitimacy of lamentation being part of our worship as Christians. My point was simply that it should NOT be the overriding theme in our new covenant worship. We live on the other side of the cross. Jesus has resurrected and ascended. He rules and reigns, even though the kingdom has not been consumated yet.

        True Christians do not have to fake happiness in their worship. In fact, happiness is not the issue either. Joy is the issue. And the Bible is clear that the Spirit of God produces joy in the life of every Christian (Gal 5). Thus, joy in our COMPLETE salvation in Christ should be the theme of New Testament worship.

        The NT speaks a lot about the firm hope that we have as Christians and the longing for Christ’s return. It offers a different approach to our pilgrimage on earth. The NT tells us to focus on the return of Christ in the midst of our pain, suffering,and sorrow. We should realize that our citizenship is in heaven even now. At least that’s what Paul says in the book of Philippians. Joy should characterize Christians over lamentation.

        The reality is that NT Christians should have a much different perspective on life than an Old Testament Jew writing a psalm of lamentation.

        I hope that helps you understand better where I was coming from. Apparently, I was not clear.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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