Take note of the lyrical content of our worship–both classic hymns and modern songs–and you will see a trend. Our songs mostly make declarations.
From old treasures like “Amazing Grace” to recent ones like “What A Beautiful Name”, the majority of what we sing is doctrinal affirmation and praise. Our songs mainly proclaim truths about who God is, what he has done and who we are because of his redemptive work.
This may not seem problematic at first, as there’s nothing inherently wrong with declarative praise. It’s undeniably biblical. But if declarative praise is most of what we sing, our worship diverges drastically from how God’s people worship in the bible.
Read through the Psalms and you’ll discover a song that has virtually disappeared in our culture: lament. These songs of sorrow don’t just make an occasional appearance in Israel’s hymnbook. Over a third of the book is lamentation, making it the most popular song of the Psalter. So if we don’t lament regularly, we neglect a crucial aspect of worship that God ordained for his people.
But the disparity is more specific. Biblical lament does not simply mention suffering and then make declarations of trust. Lamenters take time to describe their difficulties, question God, bring forth their complaints, and beg the Lord to act. The exclamation points are of exasperation, not just affirmation. And question marks punctuate the pain. But our songs rarely reflect these lyrics that are so prevalent in the Scriptures.
Lament is the God-given song for wrestling with him together. He is the one who has authorized lyrics with honest expression, bold questions, forthright complaints, and desperate petitions. Songs with doubts are just as God-honoring as songs with declarations. Songs of questioning are just as God-glorifying as songs of confidence. Songs of sorrow are just as worshipful as songs of joy. If we only have the latter, our worship is habitually incomplete.
Pay attention on Sundays and see if you notice the trend of declarative praise. Line up the lyrics on the screen with the lyrics in the Scriptures. If there’s disparity, serve your God and his people by helping your church bridge the gap.