Finding God on Your iPod: The National and Learning to Lament

On Sunday we looked a song by one of my favourite bands called “The National”. And the song we explored was called “Sorrow”.

The reason we looked at this song was because this was the song that I played on repeat again and again when my dad passed away. It was a song that for me got tied to that dark and difficult time. The singer sings, “I don’t want to get over you” and that was so very true in my life.

He also sings, “Sorrow waited, and sorrow won”. And that was also true in my life; sorrow seemed to be winning.

And that’s really what we wanted to explore on Sunday, how do you move past sorrow? How do you overcome sorrow that grips you? How do you move forward?

And the answer is found in something called the lament.

The lament is really a type of prayer. A brutally honest, bring up the raw stuff within, kind of a prayer. Lament, if it’s about anything, is about honesty. But rather than discuss what it is, we looked at an example of lament in Psalm 39.

Psalm 39 is where David wrestles with maintaining silence before God, and expressing his hurt, anger, and accusation at God. David begins with maintaining silence, in fear that he might sin in what he says (v 1). But this doesn’t last for long because silence can’t last forever. And instead, out comes a torrent of expectations, longings, and hurt.

Listen to some of the raw stuff he says,

Rescue me from my rebellion. Do not let fools mock me. I am silent before you; I won’t say a word, for my punishment is from you. But please stop striking me! I am exhausted by the blows from your hand. (v. 7-9)

Or

Leave me alone so I can smile again before I am gone and exist no more.

These are some brutally honest lines. David accuses God of punishing him, ignoring him, or not rescuing him when he should. And he ends with this line, that if God doesn’t help, at least leave him alone so that he can smile again. Being left alone by God is better than being rejected and punished by God. Or so David thinks.

Now do I believe that God is the one punishing David, or that God “strikes people”? No. But that’s not the point. The point is that David brings all that he feels, right or wrong, and brings it openly and brutally honestly before God. David’s reaction isn’t to avoid God, but to bring his accusation towards God. And this in itself is an act of faith, and hope. That even in bringing his desperation, hurt, and anger that God might hear and act.

This is lament. Being brutally honest with yourself and with God about what you feel and where you are at.

And this is what we need to learn. We do not lament. We hide, we paper over pain, we bury pain. We do not address pain and loss. But the truth is that if we want to learn to ever heal or move forward in sorrow, we need to learn to lament. We need to learn to be brutally honest with God and ourselves. And this is something that not only does the Bible authorize, but suggests. One third of the Psalms are complaints, laments, or Psalms of disorientation. Their very existence says that we can come to God with all that’s within us.

So we ended with the main point on Sunday, that we need to learn to lament. And for some of us this might take some really practical points. We might need to journal and let the hurt out. We might need to let a song speak for us (like “Sorrow” which is a modern day lament). We might need to lament with others either in a structured group, or with close friends. Or the best way is maybe to just read the Psalms and let them express our feelings to God.

The point is that if sorrow, grief, or difficulty ever grip and grab you, the way out isn’t to pretend it’s not there. The way out begins with one step. It begins with lament. And life and healing might be a long way off, but lament is the step that begins a journey. And it’s one we need to be okay to take.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: We need to learn to lament.

Teaching Points:

  • You are never ready for grief.
  • “I don’t want to get over you” – The National
  • Lament, if it is about anything, is about honesty.
  • David brings what he feels, not just what he knows, to God.
  • Within lament, even when you accuse God, You are still hoping in God.
  • To the extent we have not learned to lament, we deal superficially with the world’s brokenness, offering quick and easy fixes that do not require our conversion. Chris Rice, Emmanuel Katongole
  • We need to learn to lament.
  • Learning to lament has helped me find healing.
  • Lamenting can be journaling, sharing with others, having a song express your heart, or reading Psalms to lament.
  • We all take each other too much for granted. The routines of life distract us; our own pursuits make us oblivious; our anxieties and sorrows, unmindful. The beauties of the familiar go unremarked. We do not treasure each other enough. Nicholas Wolterstorff
  • I have been . . . grievously wounded. So I shall look at the world through tears. Perhaps I shall see things that dry-eyed I could not see. Nicholas Wolterstorff

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? Was it awkward for you to talk about grief and sorrow? Have you ever experienced sorrow? What was it like for you? Have you ever “lamented”? What might lament look like in your life?

Discussion Questions for Young Families

Today let your kids teach you. Ask them what they do when they are hurt, and angry, and in sorrow. Kids are much more open and we can learn from them.

Challenge for the Week: Learn and practice the art of lament.

2 thoughts on “Finding God on Your iPod: The National and Learning to Lament

  1. As a bit of confirmation for you Andrew. I have already been doing this lately. I didn’t know this type of lamenting was in the Bible. It just felt like something I should do, I figured God already knows the truth on how I feel. If I speak anything besides the total brutal truth to God, I might as well just lie to him.

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    1. Thanks for the confirmation Chris – that’s really good to know. And you are so right ~ if you speak anything besides the total truth you aren’t being truthful with God. Thanks buddy!

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