Congregation at Duke Chapel

Fierce Conversation with God II: Grief

Fierce Conversation with God II: Grief

presentation at Adult Forum by Jo Bailey Wells

February 27th, 2011


Patterns of the Life of Faith

(a) being securely oriented
(b) being painfully disoriented
(c) being surprisingly reoriented   (Walter Brueggemann, The Psalms and the Life of Faith (Fortress, 1995)


Types of laments

  • Corporate lament E.g. Psalms 12, 44, 60, 74, 79, 80, 83, 85, 90, 94, 123, 126, 129
  • Personal lament E.g. Psalms 3, 4, 5, 7, 9-10, 13, 14, 17, 22, 25, 26, 27*, 28, 31, 36*, 39, 40:12-17, 41, 42-43, 52*, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61, 64, 69, 70, 71, 77, 86, 89*, 120, 139, 141, 142
  • Lament of repentance E.g. Ps.6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143
  • Lament of imprecation E.g. Psalms 35, 69, 88, 109, 137, 140

STRUCTURE OF THE "LAMENT" PSALM

  • INTRODUCTORY CRY: "O God," "Help me . . ."
  • LAMENT PROPER: "I'm hurting," "The enemy is winning . . . "
    • Introduction to pain and hurt being experienced.
    • Addresses God directly, and may be accusatory, for inattention to plight.
    • Calls attention to success of the wicked.
  • CONFESSION OF TRUST: "I still trust in You . . ."
  • REASONS FOR GOD TO ACT: "I've been a good person."
  • PETITIONS: "Hear me . . ." "Save me . . ."

Psalm 13

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 and my enemy will say, "I have prevailed"; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.


"We are mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore" (Howard Beal in Network)

Features of Lament

  1. Not religious: in the sense of courtesy, politeness or deference
  2. Hyperbole
  3. Yet calls God by name
  4. And expects a response

Further Reading