December 15, 2010

Dec. 15: A time of lament


By Marshal Watson, a sophomore communication major from Goshen
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.


Every year I get myself pumped up for the winter season. Then it gets here and I immediately remember that I actually do not like the winter because it is just too cold and wet. I then become annoyed and upset, and every breath of wind and every snowflake I scowl at.

I love the book of Psalms because of the form of lament. For those who don’t know what lament is, it is a type of Psalm that expresses anger toward God, usually ending in praise. When the Advent season comes along, I do get grumpy every year. I think it’s because of the cold and the wind, the consumerism that is going around and the end-of-the-semester blues. I start to complain to God that I want the year to be over so a new one can start. But then, every year, I realize that for me and other people, Advent can be one big prayer of lament. We can go through the entire season complaining about something that’s happening in our lives. Then as our lives start to slow down a little bit, and we can spend time with the family in a warm home, we start to praise God a little more. Then, when Christmas Day comes, we recognize God fully. This becomes the end of the lament.

Even though complaining to God isn’t always the best thing, I just encourage you on this day to write your own lament, which ends in praising Emmanuel for what you have been given.

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 (NRSV)

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth

before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh. Stir up your might, and come to save us!

Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?

You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in full measure.

You make us the scorn of our neighbors; our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.

But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself.

Then we will never turn back from you; give us life, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.



Comments (10)

  1. Where is the praise following this lament in this Psalm?; recognizing our inner faith in a God of hosts who has the power to restore us and save us?

    John Hackman December 15, 2010 |
    • Thank you John for being so attentive! We accidentally forgot to include verses 17-19 of the Scripture, so they have now been added.

      Devotions editors December 15, 2010 |
  2. Helpful commentary comparing lament and advent. Thank you!

    Jon Byler December 15, 2010 |
  3. I loved today’s devotion. When I was at the lowest point of my life, I confided to a friend that I couldn’t read or relate to the Bible any more. My friend told me to read Psalms — and because David laments before praising God, I could relate. I reconnected to God in prayer — mostly complaining prayers — but just because I was praying, I soon ended up praising God at the end of my complaining. And that helped me to eventually leave the pit of despair I was mired in.

    Sue December 15, 2010 |
  4. Thank you for this devotion…this time of year finds me complaining a lot, also – mostly for how consumerism has affected my extended family’s celebrating of Advent. I appreciate the reminder that if I share my complaints (rather than grumbling to myself) with God there lies a huge possibility that in the end I will be praising God and my spirit will be uplifted.

    Jenny December 15, 2010 |
  5. Thanks for this meditation. My husband and I just moved back to the US (WV) from Santo Domingo on Monday after 7 years of living in the Caribbean. It’s tempting to begin already complaining about the drastic change in climate and temperatures and forget all God’s rich blessings and benefits, as Psalm 103 reminds us. May God’s beauty and presence shine forth in the midst of the bleak winter!

    Nancy Heishman December 15, 2010 |
  6. Thanks for the reminder that we dont have to be happy every day of the Christmas season. God can handle our laments…

    Amy Swartz December 15, 2010 |
  7. Your complaint about snow reminded me of somethiing I read yesterday.”Miracles are the ordinary revealed in their simple splendor.” Pirke Avot as quoted in “Raw Faith,”by John Kirvan

    So to are snowflakes.

    shirley Yoder December 15, 2010 |
  8. Marshal, thank you for that voice of rational thought. Many have laments in this season and the advent of Hope is the light on our path. Having the Psalms to read into is a saving grace. It is not only cold weather and wet that brings forth the laments and the depressions that bring them at this time of year. You bring a voice of reason and hope amidst what some consider a dark time.

    sally December 15, 2010 |
  9. I lament my selfishness and easily distracted ways.
    May I:
    –be ever mindful of Your Spirit, shed my selfish desires and distractions and be a reflection of your Spirit of grace and love in every thought, speech and action.
    –humbly accept Your forgiveness for being less that perfectly attentive to the opportunities and restrictions You present.
    –provide Joy and Solace to others through personal presence and prayer.
    –personally spread Christ’s message of forgiveness and love to our community and beyond. God will gift the Holy Spirit.

    Douglas E. Sawyer, MD December 15, 2010 |