The Psalms – cry out to God in confidence

Our house, your house, Archbishop’s House
May 10, 2023
Shalom Centre at St Dominic’s Children’s Home
May 10, 2023

The Psalms – cry out to God in confidence

Bro Paschal Jordan OSB spoke at the Liturgical Commission’s workshop ‘Composing Responsorial Psalms’ March 30 at the Max Murphy Hall, St Philip and St James RC Church, Chaguanas. In this three-part series based on his short course for music composers on the Book of Psalms, Bro Paschal goes into greater detail. Part one appeared in the May 7–13 issue.


Spirituality can be considered as a tool for daily living. In the first place, let us recall the dynamic applicable to all Scripture: The story of the Bible is the story of Jesus, and is my story too.

Psalms of Lament

Let us consider these Psalms of Lament. About one-third of the Book of Psalms are songs of Lament – both individual laments and national laments. Perhaps these psalms are best exemplified by the beginning of Psalm 77 (76):

I cry aloud to God,

Cry aloud to God that he may hear me.

In the day of my distress I sought the Lord…

The psalmists cry out to God and are heard and saved.

From what are they saved?

  • Death: The psalm we just prayed (Psalm 16 [15]) said it clearly: You will not leave my soul among the dead / nor let your beloved know decay.
  • Sickness: Psalm 41(40) prays: The Lord will help him on his bed of pain, / he will bring him back from sickness to health… and again in the same psalm: But you, O Lord, have mercy on me. / Let me rise once more and I will repay them.
  • Sin: The psalmist gets an ease in confession: I said: “I will confess my offence to the Lord.” / And you, Lord, have forgiven the guilt of my sin. Psalm 32(31):5.
  • Enemies: Psalm 13 (12) complains to God: How long, O Lord, will you forget me?/ How long must I bear grief in my soul / this sorrow in my heart day and night? / How long shall my enemy prevail?

We know, from the inside, how fearful we are of sickness and death. We know too how sin dogs our every footstep, and how, often, our bitterest enemy is our very self. This is our story.

St Paul understood well this wound of the heart, and it made him cry out, in the Letter to the Romans, Chapter 7:24–25: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death?”

And the answer comes swiftly: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, our Lord!”

Recall the words of Psalm 68 (67):20: This God of ours is a God who saves. Thanks be to God, for the name Jesus means Saviour.

So, what is this dynamic that allows us to cry out and to be heard by God? How is lament a spiritual stance?

The spirituality of Lament is really one of confidence in God. When the psalmists lament, they say something like: God, if I don’t call on you, who else will listen to me? (see Psalm 77:1).

This is why some of the cries sound terrible to our ears – these are cries of vengeance, of ‘do-them-back’ of cursing one’s enemies.

We too, if we tell the truth, have experienced such violent anger and the desire for revenge, in the heat of the moment.

If our words had been written down at that point in time, later on, when our anger cooled or we moved to a different psychological and spiritual space, we too might be horrified at our past sentiments. So it is with the psalms.

When I call on God in my distress, several things can happen:

  • I recognise my brokenness and my need of God.
  • God invites me to align myself with Jesus, so that my suffering can take on a redemptive quality. Think of the Songs of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 42:1–9; 49:1–6; 50:4–10; 52:13 – 53:12.
  • The doors to patience [Latin pati = to suffer] and silence are opened. From this Latin word, we get the English word ‘passion’; yes, and ‘patience’, too. I learn to wait; I grow up; suffering matures me.

The Book of Lamentations 3:26 says: ‘It is good to wait in silence for Yahweh to save.’ The Letter to the Hebrews says: ‘Suffering is part of your training. / God is treating you as his sons’ (Hebrews 12:7).

  • Paradoxically, I can recognise a certain strength to endure, since God is able to work freely when my ego, my need to control, my self-centredness and power-dealing are out of the way. With St Paul, I discover that ‘when I am weak, it is then that I am strong’ (2 Cor 12:10).
  • God does not necessarily take away the suffering or wipe the slate clean, but He brings me into a deeper understanding of true life: I have to die in order to live! This is the Paschal Mystery of Jesus being made manifest in my life, here and now.

And so then, let us continue to ‘cry to God that he may hear us.’ and so transform our lives. In the words of Psalm 16 (15), we can have full confidence in this God who saves:

And so my heart rejoices,

my soul is glad

Even my body shall rest in safety.

For you will not leave my soul among the dead,

Nor let your beloved know decay.

You will show me the path of life,

The fullness of joy in your presence,

At your right hand, happiness for ever.

Read more:

Solace from the Book of Psalms

Photo by Milk-Tea on Unsplash