Brueggemann on the Psalms of Lament

In Chap. 3 of The Message of the Psalms, Prof. Brueggemann moves from “Psalms of Orientation” to “Psalms of Disorientation.” (The former celebrate God for the order of creation and God’s control of creation. The latter are the laments: psalms that complain to God about how things have gone wrong.) He observes that the Protestant Church in its worship and Christians in general no longer make much use of the Psalms of Disorientation, even though our world is increasingly askew and disoriented away from its divine marker. Why?

I think that serious religious use of the lament psalms has been minimal because we have believed that faith does not mean to acknowledge and embrace negativity. We have thought that acknowledgement of negativity was somehow an act of unfaith, as though the very speech about it conceded too much about God’s “loss of control.”

The point to be urged here is this: The use of these “psalms of darkness” may be judged by the world to be acts of unfaith and failure, but for the trusting community, their use is an act of bold faith, albeit a transformed faith. It is an act of bold faith on the one hand, because it insists that the world must be experienced as it really is and not in some pretended way. On the other hand, it is bold because it insists that all such experiences of disorder are a proper subject for discourse with God. There is nothing out of bounds, nothing precluded or inappropriate. Everything properly belongs in this conversation of the heart. To withhold parts of life from that conversation is in fact to withhold part of life from the sovereignty of God. Thus these psalms make the important connection: everything must be brought to speech, and everything brought to speech must be addressed to God, who is the final reference for all of life. (p. 52. Italics in original.)


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