Living under unjust, corrupt, violent, deceptive, and foolish leadership is not new to the human experience – indeed it is very common. The Psalms in the Bible contain a number of powerful windows into similar experiences from thousands of years ago.
As we are forced to endure the daily insults and injuries of such leadership, we can feel the pressure build inside us. Sometimes we feel like we’re going to explode. Sometimes we do explode. And sometimes we slide steadily into a state of ongoing bitterness and hatred.
The Psalms offer a release valve for this pressure. This release valve is called lament. Lament opens the door for us to call evil what it is – and not just call it what it is, but feel it for what it is. Lament invites us to be furious about what is unjust, corrupt, violent, deceptive, and foolish. Lament says that it is right to feel anger – evil should infuriate us.
But lament does more than this – it also exists to help us to release our anger so it doesn’t poison us or drive our interactions with our fellow human beings. Without lament, all of our fury over what is evil has only two places to go … either it burns us alive from the inside, or it lashes out against the human source of the evil we are experiencing (and sometimes innocent bystanders as well).
What lament does is it enables us to take our volatile, righteous anger ... and pour it out over God. It invites us to scream at a volume that respects just how evil the situation is, “Why God, why? This is evil! Are you not seeing this?” As we cry out in the direction of God, it’s like weeping. Our emotions are released in a way that is truthful, and in this release we set the burden of Justice (capital J) on God – which is a burden none of us can bear.
This is in no way any kind of quick fix – there are no quick fixes when facing unjust power and daily abuse. But lament leads you into a deep and honest cry and a releasing of burdens that are too big for you in the direction of the divine … and this can at least give you a better chance of living and acting – and, yes, resisting – out of the positive motivation of truth and love, rather than the volatile deluge of hatred.
Psalm 10 (which is below) could not be more relevant to our current moment. It certainly applies to the current president and those in government that continue to actively and passively support his injustice, corruption, violence, deception, and foolishness. But it applies to others as well – maybe people who have a very immediate impact on your life.
So let us lament – and let lamentation set us free to rage against evil, release our rage in the direction of God, and continue to move forward in determined truth and love.
Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
His ways are always prosperous;
your laws are rejected by him;
he sneers at all his enemies.
He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”
His mouth is full of lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.
He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.
He says to himself, “God will never notice;
he covers his face and never sees.”
Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
“He won’t call me to account”?
But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked man;
call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
that would not otherwise be found out.
The Lord is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.