Today I went to a church. I know, crazy.

We were singing these songs, and I was thinking about what I have long pondered in this setting. I can’t think of a time we ever sang an unhappy song. Not a single lament in my memory. It interests me that the Psalms are full of laments, our lives are full of laments, but our worship gatherings have only the faintest echoes of lamentation at best.

Has Jesus so changed our lives that we are forever happy? Are we now forever satisfied with the state of the world and the state of our lives? Is this some kind of faith statement when we sing such pleasant songs as if we’ve found that somewhere over the rainbow?

Life is more complex than this monochromatic music selection.

Brueggeman once wrote about broadly categorizing our lives in three stages: orientation, disorientation, and reorientation. In short, orientation is the state of being stable and knowing that things in general are all right in the world and of trusting God and seeing his good hand behind all things–this is a taste of Eden’s tree of life that nourishes us till our hearts sing songs of orientation; disorientation is what happens when that worldview crumbles often due to pain or fear or other experiences that cause us to question our previous worldview and to wonder about the goodness of God–this is a treacherous trek through the valley of the shadow of death deathly silent but for our occasional cries of agony; and reorientation is when we come out of the dark woods and our struggles and begin to see the goodness of God and of life again and to know that God was with us in that dark pit after all–this is like walking out of that tomb more fully alive than before that something inside you died as you dare once more to utter whispers of restoration.

We all travel on a path that goes through these three states, often going through them in different orders, sometimes staying in one state longer than the other. Often we forget that the other states even exist when we are in the one. It is such an amazing variety of experiences that catalyze us to cross the threshold from songs of orientation to cries of agony or from cries of agony to whispers of restoration.

I think when it comes to worship services we are more than happy to skip the cries of agony. We sing songs that are full of orientation language about how good God is. We only hint at our laments in other songs of restoration that express how we will trust God no matter how much the world sucks and how we are grateful that God saved us from ourselves.

Such songs are fine, even wonderful. But what about laments? Real people lament and struggle and cry and wonder about what the hell is going on in our world and all the hell that is going on in our lives. We need to be able to lament to reach this generation; so often in the midst of our agonized cries we find God healing our most hidden festering wounds, because God responds to our cries. He has a long history of doing that.

So, let’s sing some lines from Psalm 88: “For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave…you have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths. Your wrath lies heavily upon me; you have overwhelmed me with all your waves…you have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend”. Or how about from Jesus: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Or perhaps Mary’s and Martha’s words that came through tears after their brother died: “Lord, if you had been here…”

I am not advocating for faithlessness here or for despair. Basically every lament psalm except for #88 has at least one line of trust in it. But we do need to sing from our hearts and find out how to trust God knowing we have pain and fears and struggles rather than “faithfully” pretending that we do not.

Otherwise we might as well pop some Christian prozac, keep those blank smiles plastered on our faces, cup our hands over our ears, and keep on singing like there’s nothing but sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows all around us.

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