“What Can Miserable Christians Sing?” (Carl Trueman)

In Carl R. Trueman’s book The Wages of Spin: Critical Writings on Historical and Contemporary Evangelicalism, he included a chapter entitled,”What Can Miserable Christians Sing?”

The answer to that question, Trueman answers, is the Psalms and specifically the Psalm’s model of lamentation.

Of this short chapter Trueman states,

This little piece which took minimal time and energy to author has garnered more positive responses and more touching correspondence than anything else I have ever written. It resonated with people across the Christian spectrum, people from all different church backgrounds who had one thing in common: the understanding that life has a sad, melancholy, painful dimension which is too often ignored and sometimes even denied in our churches.

He describes his purpose for writing as

to highlight what I saw as a major deficiency in Christian worship, a deficiency that is evident in both traditional and contemporary approaches: the absence of the language of lament. The Psalms, the Bible’s own hymnbook, contains many notes of lamentation, reflecting the nature of the believer’s life in a fallen world. And yet these cries of pain are on the whole absent from hymns and praise songs.

CarlTruemanHe sums up the thrust of that chapter as follows:

There is nothing in the typical book of hymns or praise songs that a woman who has miscarried a baby, or a parent who has just lost a child to cancer, can sing with honesty and integrity on a Sunday.

The desperation and heartache of such moments are things which we instinctively feel have no place in a religion where we are called on to rejoice in the Lord always. Yet there is a praise book which taps such emotions and gives the broken-hearted honest words with which to express their deepest sorrows to God.

It’s called the book of Psalms; and its recovery as a source of public praise in the Christian church can only help the church overcome its innate triumphalism and make room for the poor and the weak.

In short, he says, in the Psalms “one finds divinely inspired words which allow the believer to express their deepest pains and sorrows to God.”

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