The Psalms and Our Songs

The Psalms are important for a number of reasons. For one, they take up a fairly large portion of Scripture and they have been a comfort for many. Spurgeon, known as the “prince of preachers,” struggled with depression and he found comfort and solace in the Psalms. He spent some twenty years writing his three-volume commentary on the Psalms.

The Psalms are also important because we are exhorted to sing Psalms. The Psalms are important because they give powerful truths poetic expression. This is helpful because it not only helps us remember the truths but helps us feel the truth. The Psalms are beautiful and will have a very practical impact on us when we soak in them.

Interestingly, Scripture has laments in it and so does our surrounding culture. Most Christian circles, however, do not have laments. Why is this? Is it because Christians are always happy? And always live victoriously? I don’t think so.

Our lack of laments is a problem. It is a problem for a variety of reasons. It’s a problem because not everyone is in the same place. Some are weeping over struggles, pain, and death. Without laments, our songs may seem trivial or irrelevant. It’s a problem because it seems fake (and perhaps is fake). Christians have reasons to lament. Jesus Himself wept. We should too! But sadly we don’t have very constructive ways to weep if we stick with popular Christian music.

Laments are needed. They’re needed because they are real and honest to life and our experience in the universe. Christian laments are needed because they serve as helm and ballast to the storm-tossed soul.

Laments also promote awareness and empathy for the broader world. We need to be aware of and take seriously people’s trouble, pain, sorrow, and desperation. Laments offer us a powerful way to do that.

Wolves at the Gate, one of my all time favorite bands, wrote a song that is very meaningful to me. They are a heavier band so I know some people won’t like their stuff but you can find the lyrics to their song “Relief” here and the video which I think communicates the point of the song well, here. And here‘s a really good example of a Christian lament from Rend Collective, another band I really like. I think Gungor’s song “Beautiful Things” perhaps fits the Christian lament criteria too (and it’s a great song). 

Solution:

Christians, listen to songs that aren’t just happy-go-lucky and celebratory. There is a place for weeping and wailing for Christians. Artists, make art that reckons with the harsh reality of the Fall and the pain and suffering that we experience. 

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 9 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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