Psalms of Lament for Times of Sorrow

It is not every day that the phrase “Psalms of Lament” is used, but I can assure you that some of your favorite passages in the book of Psalms are those of lament. To lament is to express deep sorrow or grief to God about a specific or communal problem.

The genre of lament found in the book of Psalms shows the depths of our relationship with God. This happens when there is nowhere to turn when life becomes burdensome, and it’s clear our only hope is God.

Life is not without its share of heartaches and pain, and the lament psalms in the Bible show us how to respond when life is rough.

One crucial fact about lamenting is the comfort it brings in knowing that someone has felt the way you do now and you’re not alone. Your situation is familiar to humanity, and there is hope. To be a good rejoicer, you have to be a good lamenter or complainer. We pray that God would change our situation or lessen the pain, but God sometimes changes us to be stronger and rooted in Him.

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How Many Psalms are Laments?

There isn’t an exact number of the psalms of lament because this number would vary based on who you ask. However, one-third of the Psalms, or about 59 of them are categorized in the genre of lament. The Psalms contain so many other genres but one of its outstanding and relatable genres are psalms of lament and grief.

I recently counseled and discipled a young lady walking through a time of grief. Learning how to lament and express her thoughts to God was the best part of our time together. She was able to identify with Davids’s psalms of lament and find comfort in her God.

One of the passages she knew from memory namely, Psalms 13 was a pleasant surprise when she understood that it was also one of lament.

The lament psalms, although in a genre of their own can also be categorized. Laments can be individual or community-based. 

When reading the psalms of lament there are three types of complaints found.

The first is because of the writer’s trouble as a result of his own guilt and thoughts. The second is when someone thinks that God has forgotten them and shares their frustration with Him, and the third is when the author complains about the actions of his enemies towards him.

Which Psalms are Laments?

I mentioned previously that there are 59 psalms of lament which were written by different authors. If you have a study Bible you will notice at the start of each chapter the author’s name is usually mentioned.

David’s psalms of lament are more popular because most were written against his enemies and because of his own guilt. Many of us usually self-identify with the way he felt and his experience when he penned those words. David wrote 43 of these psalms with 3 others being attributed to him or anonymous. The following chapters are all laments found in the book of Psalms.

The Psalms of lament list is an excellent reference when looking for a particular passage that speaks to a situation you are facing where you need to talk to God.

Psalms 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 17, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31,35, 36, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43, 44, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 64, 69, 70, 71, 72, 77, 79, 80, 82, 83, 85, 86, 88, 90, 94, 102, 109, 137, 139, 140, 141, 142, 143.

Examples of Different Types of Laments

Laments can be written based on any theme, actually, you can find laments on so many different topics that speak to almost every emotion or problem we may face in life.

Themes like atheism, love, temptation, faith, prayer, anger, grief, worship and so many more are spoken of in lament psalms.

Psalms of Lament and Grief

There are 31 lament psalms that speak on grief, one that is very familiar is Psalms 42.

Psalms 42:9 states, “I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” 

This psalm was written by the Korahites and also includes themes of depression, hope, worship, music, and even suffering. Every single one of these extra themes can relate well to grief.

Another passage that deals with grief are found in Psalms 43 where King David prays for deliverance. Interestingly, the last verse in this chapter is very similar to the verse I used from Psalms 42.

Psalms 43:5 “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation, and my God.”

When grief comes knocking on your door (because it is sure to come) remember to look to the Psalms for inspiration to write out what you’re feeling and talk to your God. I like that God included these examples in his word so we can find comfort in the same strategies used years ago and turn to God.

Psalms of lament

Psalms of Lament and Anger

There are also times when we get angry. Two examples of laments that deal with anger are Psalms 4 and 55. The Psalmist David tells us to be angry but not give way to sinful anger. He then speaks of a friend that has betrayed him and we can identify with anger we may experience if in the same position.

What’s most important here is that Psalms of lament and anger are not just focused on the pain of anger but on expressing the anger to God and reminding themselves about God’s goodness.

All laments have a basic structure. You can recognize one by looking for four specific telltale signs. The first is that they are addressed directly to God. Secondly, the complaint is described and expressed. Third, the believer requests God’s help in the problem and finally, they encourage their faith by reaffirming their total trust in God.

They will also remind themselves about his promises and who he is. The beautiful expression of lamenting helps the believer to voice their feelings to God and not wallow in a pit. It is one thing to complain to God and turn bitter towards him but it is quite helpful to remember that He is God and encourage yourself based on what his Word has revealed about him.

Trials are not just for those who don’t believe. The true test of faith is the way the believer responds to the trials sent her way. In Psalms 55 after David vented to God, he ended with these reassuring words, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalms 55:22)

Your situation may be dire but God has given you a way to communicate with him and examples in the psalms of lament. Use them.

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About the AuthorKeneesha Saunders

Keneesha is a wife, mom, and writer with an MA in Biblical Counseling because she believes in the sufficiency of scripture and its transforming power. She enjoys encouraging Christian women to grow spiritually and become more like Christ. Read this devotional based on one of the lament psalms and be encouraged. Find her at her website and sign up for her free spiritual growth guide.