Are You Giving Margin for Lament? Psalm 42

(Actual photo of the deer that treat my front yard as a salad bar.)

Everyone I know experienced loss in 2020. Job loss, death, illness, cancellation of special events, long months of separation from loved ones, financial struggles, depression, strain on marriages, anxiety and more was served up in abundance to everyone.

What do I do when faced with a sad situation, a significant loss or a painful transition?

I believe there is a need, hard-wired into our soul, to grieve, process and lament pain. Stuffing it down only lengthens the healing pathway or avoids it entirely.

Psalm 42 is written as a lament. It begins with the vivid picture of thirsty animal.

1As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
 for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

Psalm 42:1-2 ESV

The Master Designer of humans created me with a need for Him. My soul literally thirsts and hungers to be in God’s presence. Far too often shame, guilt, sadness, and depression keep me from running to the only one who can fill my needs. I might even try to satisfy myself with people and things, but only God can water my parched soul.

My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.

Psalm 42:3-4 ESV

In times of deep grieving my tears have truly been my food day and night. Sometimes well-meaning friends offer empty platitudes or pointed questions that provide no hope or encouragement. While I long to gather in God’s house, I’m pouring out what little energy I might have left on my grief journey. The steps in processing grief must be taken one by one. Rushing back into a festival or celebration would be disorienting until the work of grieving in completed.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation
and my God.My soul is cast down within me; therefore, I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Psalm 42:5-6 ESV

Part of any grieving journey requires some soul searching and an exploration of why. My own feeling sometimes surprises me. My hope is found in God and that is a handhold in the dark way that must be traveled. Can I call to mind times of God’s faithfulness in my life? Making a list might bring a fresh spring of encouragement. The psalmist recalls the unchanging landmarks in the land where he lives as he travels the uncertain territory of processing grief. What are the places where God has shown himself large and active in my life? Shall I place a stone of remembrance there to bear testimony of what He has done for me?

Thank you, God that you provide a map for traveling the pathway of grieving. You give abundant margin for me to bring all my deepest and darkest feelings to you. You are always available to hear my cries. You never tire of reminding me of what you have done for me. Help me to travel the grieving pathway at your pace. Not running ahead or giving up but moving ever forward to great healing that can only come from you. AMEN

How do you leave margin to process grief? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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