Psalm 77 is among the group of Psalms that are called “Psalms of Lament.” Lament is not a practice that modern Americans are very familiar with. We believe in the “pursuit of happiness.” We pride ourselves in being able to find a solution to every problem. We are uncomfortable with suffering and pain. So when someone does experience tragedy, loss, or sorrow, few outlets are available for us other than medication or private therapy. There is definitely not a space to express our experiences of desolation in public, especially not in worship! Tragically, for many people the church is the last place they would want to be honest about their pain.
The ancients were wiser than we are when it comes to suffering, and much of that is because of the practice of lament. Lament is a form of prayer that stares suffering and pain in the face and does not seek a solution. It is courageous enough to see the terrible brokenness of our sin-scarred world and just simply grieve it. The Psalms of Lament not only grieve the brokenness of the world, but speak directly to the only One who can do anything about it-- God himself. The Psalms of Lament give permission to shake our fist at God, ask hard questions, and wonder why. Many suffering people have testified that they have found language for their own sorrow in the Psalms of Lament.
Of course, like all the Psalms, the ultimate point is not simply self-expression. The fact that the Psalms of Lament speak directly to God is the key to where the hope lies-- that there is a God, that his ways are mysterious, and the plot-line of his salvation is moving forward. Psalm 77 in particular looks back to the great acts of salvation that God has wrought, and in them finds hope for God’s ongoing acts of grace and faithfulness. For us New Testament Christians, the acts of salvation are even mightier and the hope is even stronger, because the same Savior who triumphed over death is now alive in us.
As you prepare this week for worship, read a few Psalms of Lament- try 3, 6, 13, 28, 56 or 142. Put the Psalms in your own words. Perhaps reflect or journal on something painful and unresolved in your own life. And then bring that experience to our worship together this week, knowing that God invites you to speak plainly to Him about your pain and that He promises to answer with hope.
Our weekly worship guide can be downloaded here.
1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[b]
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
13 Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
16 The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.