I stopped myself from singing along in praise. I was in the car, listening to worship music, and decided to turn it off. After finishing up a phone call that I had psyched myself up for over many days, I just wanted to stew in my own thoughts. I had tried to keep my expectations low, but my hopes continued to rise despite my best efforts. Suffice it to say—the call didn’t go well. Tears pricked my eyes as my disappointment controlled my mind. I switched out praise music for the sound of my mom’s voice. She listened well. She understood my sorrow.
“Well, look on the bright side,” she began, but I didn’t let her get any further.
“I’m not ready for a bright side just yet. I’ll get there tomorrow.” I wanted to stew, to let myself feel bad. Despite the sorrow and anger stirring up inside me, I didn’t truly want comfort. The thing that I avidly sought at that moment was someone’s pity.
My Favorite Kind of Party is a Pity Party
But pity parties are selfish. They’re self-centered and self-glorifying. We don’t have to turn to self in times of sorrow because the Lord understands our grief. For as much as my mom may understand, God’s understanding is above and beyond. He has felt those moments of pain and sorrow, and he has known betrayal and suffering far beyond my experiences.
That’s why, as Christians, our grief comes mixed with joy.
It comes mixed with hope. And faith. And trust.
That’s the difference between throwing a pity party for ourselves and experiencing godly sorrow.
The next day, I read Psalm 102 according to my Bible’s reading plan and God’s good plan to speak his truth into my life. This psalm is written by “one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD.” There are many psalms written by David and others that lament the pain of this world. Whether we’re experiencing joy or sorrow or a mixture of both, the Psalms serve as a model for our own prayers today.
In Psalm 102, we see the psalmist grieve to the Lord. He doesn’t just vent his feelings to the world, hoping for a pat on the back and a “that has to be really hard.” First and foremost, for grief to be godly, it must be filtered to and through the Lord. We go to him in the moments when we most want to shy away and hide within ourselves. God created us to have emotions; they weren’t a result of the fall. But in each and every emotion, he calls us to glorify him and not to sin. The lament of Psalm 102 lays out an example of godly sorrow for us.
Godly Sorrow is Honest
First, the psalmist lays his emotions bare before the Lord. He spends the first eleven of twenty-eight verses (yes, almost half the entire psalm) just telling the Lord everything that is troubling him.
Sometimes I get caught up in trying to keep my prayers upbeat and optimistic for God. I downplay my heart (even though he knows my heart anyway) and shakily maintain a happy-go-lucky demeanor in my prayer life. But God isn’t deterred by my feelings. He already knows everything whether I tell him or not, and he doesn’t belittle or spurn us for being upset.
We can pour out our hearts to the Lord, telling him how we feel, what we’re experiencing, and everything that’s plaguing us. This is more than venting; it’s surrendering with humility. As you bring your sorrow to God, you’re actively trusting that the greatest joy and hope can be found in God alone.
Godly Sorrow Involves Praise
Despite spending almost half the psalm talking about how things are going wrong for him, the psalmist embraces his faith through praising God:
“But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations.” (Ps. 102:12)
That one important word—but—offers a shift in perspective. The psalmist no longer dwells in his present circumstances; he praises the Lord for what he has done (Ps. 102:19–20 CSB) and for what he has faith that God will do (Ps. 102:13–17 CSB). God’s glory and power overcome trials to the point that even the written account of his actions will cause generations to praise him (Ps. 102:18 CSB). Praising the Lord in the midst of grief points us toward our greatest hope.
Godly Sorrow Displays Faith
As the psalmist praises God, he displays faith in the Lord’s might and actions. When he praises God for things of the future, he is making statements of faith.
“For the LORD will rebuild Zion; he will appear in his glory. He will pay attention to the prayer of the destitute and will not despise their prayer.” (Ps. 102:16–17 CSB, emphasis added)
“They will perish, but you will endure; all of them will wear out like clothing. You will change them like a garment, and they will pass away.” (Ps. 102:26 CSB, emphasis added)
In the midst of suffering, in the midst of grief, in the midst of the lowest pit, the Lord will endure. He will move. Will is not a maybe word or a sometimes word. Will is a guarantee. To have a guarantee of the Lord’s own faithfulness changes our sorrow into longing, our suffering into waiting. It replaces hopelessness with eternal hope in our eternal future with God.
Meet the Author
Sarah Valentour is the Fulfillment Specialist for Well-Watered Women, shipping out gospel-driven happy mail daily. Living in the metro-Atlanta area with her husband, she is passionate about writing on the Lord’s immense faithfulness, snuggles with her nieces and nephew, and discovering those unique intricacies that make certain words tick.