Posted by Tim Hughes on 23 September 2013

Have you ever sung this song in church?


'He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long . . . He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust.' [Lamentations 3:2-3,16]

Or what about this one?

'How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?' [Psalms 13:1-2]

I’m guessing you probably haven’t sung either of these. Most of the churches I’ve visited sing songs of celebration, joy, praise and adoration—which is wonderful—but seem to miss the songs of lament. They are deemed as inappropriate or melancholic. I remember hearing one worship leader say that each Sunday he only had 25 minutes to lead worship through song, so why would he want to waste time focusing on the negative?

In his article ‘The Hidden Hope in Lament’, Dan Allender writes:
'Christians seldom sing in the minor key. We fear the somber; we seem to hold sorrow in low esteem. We seem predisposed to fear lament as a quick slide into doubt and despair; failing to see that doubt and despair are the dark soil that is necessary to grow confidence and joy.'

A quick glance through the Psalms and many other books in the Bible reveals so much pain and lament—cries of despair and suffering continually offered up to God. This begs the question: Have we lost the place for worship and lament in the Church?

A while back I wrote a song called ‘When the Tears Fall’. It was written at a time when life for me was hard. I’d taken a few knocks and suddenly my heart was filled with questions and doubt. One evening, feeling very low, I sat down and started pouring out my heart to God. The first line I sang out was, “I’ve had questions without answers. I’ve known sorrow, I have known pain.” Immediately, I looked for a response. How do you follow a line like that? Well the answer is, look to Jesus. Everyone on this earth experiences pain, suffering, bereavement and illness. The only difference is that for those who believe that Jesus is Lord, we have a Saviour we can turn to and cling to.
But there’s one thing that I’ll cling to; You are faithful, Jesus, You’re true.

As I sang out of my pain and doubt, my soul found rest in Jesus. At first I concluded this was a personal song only for my own use. However, the more I pondered it, I began to realise that the sentiment and theme of this song was just as worshipful as any other. For there has to be a place for pain in the Church.

We need a bigger picture of what worship is. Questioning God doesn’t mean we are disobeying Him. Expressing doubt doesn’t mean we are lacking faith. In our everyday living, the people we’re most likely to share our deepest fears and questions with are those we most love and trust. It’s an intimate thing to be honest and raw with someone. It’s something that draws you closer to a friend. Expressing anger and pain in worship can actually be a beautiful, intimate thing. Again as Dan Allender says, 'Lament cuts through insincerity, strips pretence, and reveals the raw nerve of trust that angrily approaches the throne of grace and then kneels in awed, robust wonder.'

If we return to the songs I quoted at the start, we see that they don’t end where I left them. In Lamentations, the bitter cry ends with lines of hope and trust:

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.' [Lamentations3:21-23]

In the Psalms, the feeling of abandonment and sorrow is responded to by singing out, 'But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.' [Psalms 13:5-6]

It’s easy to praise when everything is going according to plan. It’s more of a challenge when everything around us is falling to pieces. It takes great faith to say, “You are good” when life is incredibly hard. But God is good and forever worthy of our praise. This is not dependent on our feelings. Day and night, always the same, God deserves our highest praise.

We will find great comfort and healing in the Church by allowing space to be honest and real about how we feel - to allow questions and doubts to rise, but in that place to respond to God by worshipping His holy name...


I will praise You. I will praise You. When the tears fall, still I will sing to You. I will praise You. Jesus praise You. Through the suffering still I will sing.

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