Walter Brueggemann calls them the psalms of disorientation. They're for when we have lost the privilege of believing that life is fair, that it'll all be okay, that a benevolent force for good is in our lives. They shriek of pain, of despair, of desperation.
For a long time, the Christian church has avoided these psalms, feeling that they indicated a lack of belief, of faith. Ironically, many UU churches avoided them because they address God, which is too much faith for us.
God, I'm hurt, and I'm feeling broken inside. And I am mad at you. And I don't even believe that it's your fault, I don't believe that you cause bad things to happen nor provide miracles. But there's a young woman who is fighting for her life, has been going to nursing school even with cancer, has just poured her young life into helping others and now that cancer just seems to be winning, seems to taking over her whole body and it is hurting her, God. And I know that I don't believe you intervene, that you choose who gets miracles but even with that, God, just this once? Just this once? And now I hear that my friend, my friend, God, the one in class with me with the beautiful long braids, so full of vim and vigor, the one whom I looked at with awe and said "You have the gift of preaching," even though she's in tradition that doesn't recognize your call to women ... now I find out that she has had a massive stroke. She's barely older than me, God! They had to cut into her skull, God, do you realize that? She is lying in the ICU and we don't know if she'll still be she. And now, Good God, an earthquake? More devastation to come? Really, God? REALLY? I am mad, God! And I don't know who to be mad to, so I am mad at you. I love you but I am MAD at YOU.
Psalms like 13, that take the Priestly Blessing, shove it in God's face and say, "You're not doing your part of the bargain!" You're not turning your face toward me and being gracious to me, you're hiding your face! You're pretending I don't exist! How Long, Lord???
Psalms like 137, where we all grieve, broken-hearted together. We weep together, remembering the beautiful life we had, now ruthlessly stripped away. We are so devastated, so victimized, we have so lost who we are, we even fantasize about the children of our enemies having their heads dashed in, so that our enemies can know this pain.
These psalms are brutal, and sad, and heartrending. And utterly honest. Especially psalm 88, the only one that can't crawl its way back to faith in God. Darkness is my closest friend.
the pain as well as the beauty.
As for me, I'm keeping the psalms close at hand. I wish I'd known of them as I sat alone in the hospital, a sleeping bald child next to me.
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?