Psalms of Lament
in relation to the other Psalms


In reading about the Psalms of Lament, one of the most helpful scholars whose work I read was Walter Brueggemann. In his book, Message of the Psalms, he divides the Psalms into three broad categories: Psalms of Orientation, Psalms of Disorientation, and Psalms of New Orientation.

The Psalms of Orientation express the seasons of life where all seems right in the world. We are able to joyfully delight in the rich blessings of life and the goodness of God.

Psalms of Disorientation express the seasons of life where the world and goodness has seemed to have come crashing down around us. Rage, resentment, self-pity, and hatred are the primary feelings we experience.

The Psalms of New Orientation give expression to those seasons in life where God surprises us with joy in place of mourning. Somehow, beyond understanding, light shines through and transforms our places of darkness and pain.

Laments are Psalms of Disorientation. Laments are not just the gushing forth of raw rage, but a prayer with a specific mood and structure. The writer honestly expresses distraught feelings, and yet somehow there is often space created in that prayer to make room for the new orientation or transformation. Perhaps that space comes partly in the fact that the very expression of pain to God keeps the relationship open and authentic rather than suppressing grief and pain and moving on in a superficial way.

Psalms of lament make up almost half of the book of Psalms. Many of these laments were written by King David. Other Biblical figures who are recorded as including laments in their relationship with God were Moses (Exod. 32:11-14, Numbers 11:11-15), Joshua (Josh.7:7-9) Jeremiah (Jer. 12:1-6, 20:7-13), Job and Jesus (Mark 15:34). My study was limited the discussion to the laments recorded in the Psalter.

Learn more about using the Lament psalms for the grief journey

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