By Dietrich Kirk
What should our relationship with God look like? God is full of grace, forgiveness, and love. God is often referred to as a Good Father. Jesus desires to have a deep relationship with us and calls us friend. Relationships involve all kinds of emotions. We feel glad, sad, guilty, ashamed, fearful, hurt, lonely, and angry (The Voice of the Heart). My sense is that we teach teenagers to (and that we ourselves) engage God by inviting God into our emotions. Emotions are neither good nor bad. They are what guide our journey.
Do we encourage teenagers to engage all of their emotions in their relationship with God? Real relationships involve anger and sadness. We can be angry at someone we love. Can we be angry at God? Of course we can. The Psalmist often wrote emotional poetry in the form of a lament. Laments cry out to God expressing anger, hurt, sadness, and other emotions, but they are also statements of faith that we know, trust, and hope that God will hear our cry and change the circumstances. When our hearts are aligned with God, our hearts break with the same hurt that God’s heart breaks with.
Use this lesson on lament to help youth grow in their understanding of their relationship with God. Use it when tragedy happens in your community or in the world and you know young people are struggling to express their emotions. Use it during Lent to help youth deepen their understanding of their relationship with God and God’s relationship with us.
Can you be angry at someone you love? Can you be angry at God? What are some reasons to be mad at someone you love? What are some good reasons to be mad at God?
Read Psalm 6 and Psalm 13
- What emotions is the author expressing?
- How does the author show faith in the midst of struggle?
- Have you ever talked to God like this?
Say something like
Did you know that 60 of the 150 Psalms are laments? David (the Psalmist) expresses all kinds of emotions to God in his writing. He is honest with God about how he is feeling in both good times and bad. But even in the bad, we can see David’s faith that God is at work. We see David’s trust in God and his hope that things will change. Let’s learn how to write a lament so that we can express our emotions and feelings to God.
The Order of a Lament
- Call upon God by name–address your words to God.
- Tell God the situation. What is it that you are feeling and why? What has happened? What is breaking your heart? Who needs God’s help? Where are you experiencing hurt?
- Petition God to change the situation–tell God what you want God to do. Use action words so that you gain confidence or implore God to action like:
- End with statements of certainty that God has heard and will act. Express your trust, faith, hope, and knowledge that God is with you even in the midst of whatever is going on.
Here is a sample lament that you can use as an example and use to close out the lesson. Or better yet, write your own for your group.
How Long, O Lord!
Almighty, Faithful God
Your people are sick; they are dying of cancer, a generation has died from HIV, diseases need cures, our neighbors – our friends — your children need your healing touch. How long, O Lord!
Where are you? We long for your presence, we call out your name, are you there? Do you hear us? Where are you! We feel alone and abandoned! Do you care? How long, O Lord!
Your children kill each other. Brother kills brother. Gangs! Senseless killing that only brings pain. Nations kill nations! Where is your peace? When will your kingdom come? How long, O Lord!
We are lost. We are confused. We do not know which way to turn. All around us is darkness and pain. We call out to you for direction. Where is your voice? I cannot stay here. I must move! How long, O Lord!
We are Thirsty, Lord. We are parched. Our souls long to know your presence! Has the well run dry? How long, O Lord!
Heal our hearts! Reveal yourself to us! Bring peace to your world! Set our feet upon your path! Draw water for our souls!
For we KNOW that you are God and that your faithfulness endures forever! You have not left us as orphans, but made us your children! We TRUST your ways! We have FAITH and HOPE that OUR GOD will NOT leave us unchanged!
About the Author:
Dietrich“Deech” Kirk has been in youth ministry for 20+ years. He served as the youth minister of Brentwood United Methodist Church for six years before becoming the Executive Director of the CYMT in 2006. He continues to serve as one of Brentwood’s associate ministers. He is the author of Raising Teens in an Almost Christian World: A Parent’s Guide and one of the co-authors of Now What? Next Steps in Your New Life with Christ. When he is not leading the CYMT, speaking at youth events, or training other youth workers, Deech enjoys spending time with his wife Keeley and daughters Carlisle and Hallie.