Top 5 Christian Laments

I don’t think there are enough laments in Christian music. Christian radio seems obsessed with the theology of empowerment and happy thoughts. While God is certainly good and while we do have victory in his name, happy songs alone give and incomplete and even dishonest picture of the Christian life.

But what is a lament? In essence, a lament is a song whose message is “Boy, things sure do suck!” Sometimes, there’s a cry for God, showing how even in our darkest moments, God is still present.

However, sometimes you don’t even get that. Sometimes a lament is just a wailing, a bitterness, or an outpouring of fear. It may seem un-Christian because there’s no mention of hope, but this visceral honesty is essential to the Christian experience. Sometimes all you can do is weep, and that’s okay too. Christianity is not primarily about fixing problems, but about our relationship with Christ. Crying on God’s shoulder is part of that relationship.

And what better medium for emotional overflow than music? So here are five of the best I could find. If you know of any more, leave them in the comments section for everyone to see.

“Revive Us, O Lord” by Carman

An oldie but a goodie. This is the most basic form of lament. Something is wrong, God help us. In this song, the singers have gotten slack him their faith and come back to God, begging for a renewal of their relationship.

Revive us, O Lord.
Revive us, O Lord.
And cleanse us from our impurities
and make us holy.
Hear our cry, and revive us O Lord.

Like I said, simple and sweet–bittersweet that is. It depicts one of the most important tasks of the Christian: self-correction.

“Prayin’ For You” by Lecrae

While the melody is somewhat upbeat, the subject matter is not.

He say he readin’ daily, but he ain’t really learnin’
He been in church but say that he ain’t moved by any sermon
His faith’s weak, he ain’t prayed in a week
He wake up and just weep with his face in the sink, Lord

Someone’s struggling, and not in the “I had a bad day, but at least I got Jesus” kind of struggle you often hear. Someone’s down and almost out. Lecrae fills a whole verse with how this person is falling out of the faith, unable to feel God anywhere.

Verse 2 doesn’t get better, in fact it’s only worse. This person is spiraling downward, eager to please God, but feeling like an utter failure. But the kicker comes in the very last line.

‘Cause he ain’t hearin’ You, and he ain’t feelin’ me
And God I know it’s killin’ You, because it’s killin’ me
And matter of fact there’s something else he’s concealin’, see
The person that I’ve been prayin’ about is really me

Ouch.

“As the World Bleeds” by Theocracy

Lament isn’t always about self-flagellation, it’s also about the problems of the world. For example, everything.

Why do we say You’ve failed us and You’ve turned Your eyes away
When we’re only sleeping in the bed we made?

“As the World Bleeds” calls out mankind’s hypocrisy in demanding autonomy and supervision at the same time. This song’s a little less straightforward. The melody and tone change the longer the song goes on. It begins in a quiet, horrified awe, then quickly moves into a fast-paced, manic mockery of all the good mankind has done without God.

This is our masterpiece: corruption
This is our monument: destruction
Game point of life and death, the nadir of existence painted black
This is the road to Hell we’ve wandered
This is inheritance we’ve squandered
So raise a glass to all we’ve lost and wonder if we’ll ever get it back

Then all of a sudden, the bottom drops out and the frenzied laughter gives way to wailing. Even more heartbreaking, the singers personalize the problem, identifying with humanity’s sinful nature and begging for forgiveness. And they don’t mince words.

Blood on our hands
Blood on our hands
Blood on our hands
Blood on our hands

“What Have We Become?” by DC Talk

DC Talk’s “Jesus Freak” album is loaded with all sorts of laments. “Just Between You and Me”, “What if I Stumble?”, and “In the Light”, to name a few, but I think most cutting is “What Have We Become?”

Mom and Dad are fighting as Rosie lies there crying
For once again she’s overheard regrets of their mistake.
With Christmas bells a-ringing, little Rosie leave them grieving
The gift she’d give her family would be the pills she’d take.

How many Christian songs do you know of with lyrics like that? We may not sing it on Sunday morning, but we need to sing it sometime.

Like “As the World Bleeds”, the song laments the broken state of the world, but there’s a consistent tone of sorrow and pain. Christianity is not just positive thoughts and present-world victories. It’s also recognizing when something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.

What have we become? Self-indulgent people.
What have we become? Tell me, where are the righteous ones?
What have we become in a world degenerating?
What have we become?

“There’s Something Dark” by Dustin Kensrue

I can’t confirm if the singer is Christian, but the song hits Christianity in the sternum. This one’s so honest it’s actually disturbing.

There’s something dark inside of me
There is a ghost in this machine
There’s a giant jagged hole
That twists and rips through my soul
Like the roots of some old wretched tree
There’s something dark inside of me

We’re back to self-criticism because that’s it’s where all Christian judgment should begin (Matt quote). It’s a beautiful piece of music, starting with a single guitar, then adding a second, then including a piano as the singer’s fears become evident.

There’s something rumbling in my mind
Secrets that you weren’t meant to find
Thought you knew me so well
And I will see you in hell
Before I let you live to tell what you’ve seen

Then, after accomplishing the impossible feat of making a harmonica sound haunting and ominous, Kensrue returns to a solitary guitar as he sings one the most troubling verses in Christian music.

There’s something dark inside of me
I need someone to set me free
So I call out Your name
But You seem so far away
Anyway, who could save one like me?
Cause there’s something dark inside of me

Remember, art can be literal or literary. I don’t think Kensrue is actually saying God won’t hear us, but rather conveying the same self-awareness as the tax collector who beat his breast and cried “Have mercy on me, a sinner!” the same man whom Jesus said came back justified (QUOTE).

That’s the awesome thing about art. It can tell the truth and lie at the same time. Just because a song doesn’t include hope doesn’t imply that there is no hope. We need songs of power and triumph for certain, but we also need the brutally honest critiques of the world and what some have called “the dark night of the soul.”

Even Christians. Especially Christians.

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4 thoughts on “Top 5 Christian Laments

  1. There’s certainly a place- and an important one- for acknowledging the heavy sadness of the world in Christian music. Just look at the Psalms, and the deep sorrow that some of them contain! If you don’t mind me sharing one, I love the group Koine and their version of “Lord, to You I Make Confession” – they take a lot of old Christian hymnody, with its powerful lyrics, but make the music more accessible. (Most are a little faster than this one, but this fit the theme ;))
    Thanks for sharing these!

    Liked by 1 person

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