These are some great words to think about in the context of corporate worship and Christian lament, grief, and sorrow. In this context, Andrew Byers is talking about the cries found in the Psalter.
“At some point along the way the Western church stopped associating weeping with worship. It probably occurred about the time we stopped reading and preaching so much from Lamentations and those more ominous psalms. We may rejoice to see a few tears in response to a moving song or message, but we seem unable to truly value the regular expression of sorrow as a necessary dimension to our worship. Because of this, we have become less hospitable to the dispirited and injured individuals for whom the church should serve as a haven for healing. When the depressed are in our midst, do they feel free not to answer ‘fine, just fine’ to our greetings? Are they silently shunned when they talk of God as though he is their oppressor rather than their Deliverer? Does the worship service provide them with a context in which they are encouraged to express their pain (and not just their joy) as an act of worshiping God? What are the beleaguered and downcast to do when they find themselves in need singing to God with sad songs in minor keys if all that provided are joyful refrains in major keys?”
“When the church fails to provide some outlet for crying to God from ‘out of the depths’ (Psalm 130:1), then broken souls will turn elsewhere. To our shame the bar stool and the psychiatrist’s couch are often viewed as more hospitable contexts for tormented souls than the chapel’s pew. By minimizing – or worse, eliminating – the biblical role of lament in the life of the church, we are communicating to the world, as well as to members of our own congregations, that they must take their struggles with God elsewhere. Brokenness turns into bitterness when God is denied access to our wounds and when pain is removed from the context of worship. The absence of lament on Sunday mornings is therefore promoting cynicism. So once again, we find the church unintentionally culpable for populating our own ranks with cynics.”
What a great reminder for us! Rather than get rid of the laments in the songs, prayers, and sermons of the church, we really should let them play their biblical role in the life of God’s people. This also shows the value of singing and praying all the genres found in the Psalter – not just the hymns, but also the laments, cries, and pleas for forgiveness. It’s not coincidental that laments make up a good part of the Psalter. I think Byers is right on here. Read the quote again!
The Byers’ quote is found on page 161 of Faith Without Illusions.