Every Lament A Love Song: The Pulse Shootings In Orlando, FL

G. Rouault

G. Rouault

What Do We Do With Pain?

In ninth grade English class, my brutally honest professor once asked me, "Josh, do you know why your papers get C's?  Because your Christianity keeps you from writing honestly about the evil in the novels we're reading- and in your life as well."

He was right.  At the time, my understanding of evil was that any kind of worthy faith in God explained it away- if not with denial, then certainly with trivial answers and quickly referenced scripture verses.

A number of years later I spent a summer preaching through the different genres of the psalms for a church in Tennessee.  I didn't know it then, but that summer would become a turning point in my theology, in my relationship with God, and in my relationship with suffering.  That's because I learned that, more than any other kind of Psalm in Israel's hymnbook, there are Psalms of Lament, of sadness, pain, anger, confusion, ambiguity, and discouragement.

So what does it say to us, in the wake of the shootings in Orlando last Sunday, that God's people wrote more sad songs than any other kind in their hymns of "praise?"

Here is the audio link to a sermon on Psalm 13 I gave a few years ago.  The title is a phrase from Nicholas Wolterstorff's fantastic (and heartbreaking) book "Lament For A Son," where he says that every lament is [ultimately] a love song.

By the way, during that summer of preaching on the psalms, I tried to write a modern day psalm of lament.  I called it "I Need You."  A few years later it was picked up by a band called the Swift and got some radio play.  You can hear the song here.

You can hear the Swift's version of the song here.

10 Quotes & A Song About (Sweet) Forgiveness

"Sweet Forgiveness"


I was surprised to see you in the store recently.  And after all this time, the tears still welled up in my eyes.  (Chorus) I do forgive you with all that that means.  Though the wounds and scars you left still bleed.  And who can say if I’ll ever forget, all those things you did without regret.  But there's still forgiveness- sweet forgiveness, yet.  You don't know this but we've talked.  I've begged you for answers with no response.  I've searched for peace. And all I want is to be free.  (Bridge)  Some people say that forgiveness is the key.  It opens the door and sets you free.  (Final Chorus)  I do forgive you with all that that means.  Though the wounds and scars you left still bleed.  And I will not live a life of regret, when I could live with love instead.  But there's still forgiveness- sweet forgiveness, yet.

Download a free PDF of the lyrics and chords

Buy the song at iTunes



Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life. Amen. – Words of Absolution from The Book of Common Prayer

“Don't you want to be there/don't you want to cry/when you see how far you've got to go to be where forgiveness rules/instead of where you are?” -Songwriter Jackson Browne


We forgive people not because they deserve our forgiveness, but because we want to be free. – Author Mike Mason

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Author and Ethicist Lewis Smedes

“The triumph of sin, the main sign of its rule over the world, is division, opposition, separation, hatred. Therefore, the first break through this fortress of sin is forgiveness: the return to unity, solidarity, love. To forgive is to put between me and my ‘enemy’ the radiant forgiveness of God Himself. Forgiveness is truly a ‘breakthrough’ of the Kingdom into this sinful and fallen world.”  - Fr. Alexander Schmemann

When you forgive, you release yourself as well as the other person. You allow life to go on, to bypass your exaggerated sense of virtue and your worry about being offended. As long as you sit on your power to forgive, you suppress your joy in life. You also limit yourself: If you keep those you love within tight boundaries of behavior, you have to bind yourself as well lest you be a hypocrite. – Author and Psychotherapist Thomas Moore

[The Bible] does not say ‘Forgive everyone, unless they’ve said something rude about your child.’ And it doesn’t even say, ‘Just try.’ It says, If you want to be forgiven, if you want to experience that kind of love, you have to forgive everyone in your life- everyone, even the very worst boyfriend you ever had – even, for God’s sake, yourself. – Author Anne Lamott

 [Divine forgiveness] demands of me that I step over that wounded part of my heart that feels hurt and wronged and that wants to stay in control and put a few conditions between me and the one whom I am asked to forgive. This ‘stepping over’ is the authentic discipline of forgiveness. –Author and Catholic Priest Henri Nouwen

 To forgive somebody is to say one way or another, "You have done something unspeakable, and by all rights I should call it quits between us. Both my pride and my principles demand no less. However, although I make no guarantees that I will be able to forget what you've done, and though we may both carry the scars for life, I refuse to let it stand between us. I still want you for my friend." …Our unforgivingness is among those things about us that we need to have God forgive us most. – Author Frederick Buechner

...Whoever has been forgiven little loves little. - Jesus Christ


Orthodox Christians would commend to us their annual observance and celebration of “Forgiveness Sunday,” the first service of Lent where congregant and priest alike kneel before each other during worship for to ask forgiveness one for the other. Beautiful! Alexander Schmemann has written a short piece on this Christian Orthodox tradition HERE.

What Counseling Means To Me

Mental health counseling, psychotherapy-or just counseling- whatever we call it, is so many things. My professors in graduate school taught me that counseling is science and art.  It is a white coat and a paint brush.  It is a personality assessment and a song.  Author Frederick Buechner might add that counseling is secret telling.  I like all of that.  So maybe counseling is the science and art of secret telling.

Without a doubt, though, counseling is conversation.  It is nothing if not conversation.  Counseling is as plain and simple- sometimes as mundane and meandering- as two people telling stories on a bench in Central Park.  But it is, at the same moment, as epic and life-changing as the reconciliation of warring people groups in South Africa.  Counseling is powerful precisely for this reason: it holds together the park bench and the peace talk... in one hour... on a Tuesday afternoon.  Welcome to counseling. And there's more!


Counseling is feeling.  It is corrective emotional experience, Irvin Yalom says.  It is learning to feel, learning to feel anew, or learning to feel for the first time.  It is learning to feel and then suddenly feeling every emotion at the same time.

But counseling is also thinking.  It's slowing down that instinctual, almost primal, emotional process just enough to let 2 + 2 = 4 have a say.

Counseling is learning to walk.  It's learning to use thoughts and feelings together in a fluid motion, like feet moving in tandem.  Left foot.  Right foot.  Left foot.  And suddenly we are walking, we are unstuck- unlodged.  We are FREE.

But there's still more.

Counseling is grieving the past.  It is talking while the tears keep coming and the Kleenex box is empty on the floor.

Counseling is hoping in the future.  It is dreaming out loud.  It is life-sized vision-casting.  It is redemption.

And counseling is looking into the eyes of the present- burning a hole in the terror staring back.

Counseling is growing a little more comfortable with being human, with walking the earth longing for heaven, with attending a funeral and then visiting a maternity ward.

Counseling is relational experimentation.  It is re-parenting, re-friending, re-pastoring; but most of all, it is re-selfing.

Counseling is prayer.  Counseling is listening.  Counseling is silence.  Counseling is being, and being loved while you're just being.


I love counseling.  I believe in counseling.  I believe in counseling because I believe in people.  And I believe in people because I believe in God.  And I believe in God because I believe in the counselor He sent, who died that humanity might find healing- with God, with each other, and with(in) themselves.  Hans Rookmaaker describes the goal of counseling best when he speaks of what Jesus came to do.  “Jesus didn't come to make us Christian; Jesus came to make us fully human."  This is my theory of counseling.

- Josh Bales