Giving Margin for Lament

Bible open to the PsalmsToday’s guest post, Giving Margin for Lament, written by Anthea Kotlan, first appeared on

Everyone I know experienced loss in recent years. Job loss, death, illness, cancellation of special events, long months of separation from loved ones, financial struggles, depression, the strain on marriages, anxiety, and more rained in abundance. After loss, I am often surprised by the unrelenting nature of grief.

What do I do when faced with a sad situation, a significant loss, or a painful transition?

I believe there is a need, hard-wired into our soul, to grieve, process, and lament pain. Stuffing it down only lengthens the healing pathway or avoids it entirely.

Psalm 42 is written as a lament. It begins with the vivid picture of a thirsty animal.

1As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
 for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

Psalm 42:1-2 ESV

The Master Designer of humans created me with a need for Him—my soul thirsts and hungers to be in God’s presence. Yet, shame, guilt, sadness, and depression far too often keep me from running to the only one who can fill my needs. I might even try to satisfy myself with people and things, but only God can water my parched soul.

My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.

Psalm 42:3-4 ESV

In times of deep grieving, my tears have genuinely been my food day and night. Sometimes well-meaning friends offer empty platitudes or pointed questions that provide no hope or encouragement. While I long to gather in God’s house, I’m pouring out what little energy I might have left on my grief journey. The steps in processing grief must be taken one by one. Rushing back into a festival or celebration would be disorienting until the work of grieving is completed.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation
[c] and my God.

My soul is cast down within me; therefore, I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Psalm 42:5-6 ESV

Part of any grieving journey requires soul searching and exploring why. Asking God hard questions can help. My feelings surprise me. Hope is found in God and serves as a handhold on the dark pathway.

Can I call to mind times of God’s faithfulness in my life? Making a list might bring a fresh spring of encouragement. The psalmist recalls the unchanging landmarks in the land where he lives as he travels the uncertain territory of processing grief. What are the places where God has shown himself large and active in my life? Shall I place a stone of remembrance to bear testimony of what He has done for me?

How about you? Do you need to travel a journey of grief? Do you need to mark the pathway with stones of remembrance?


Thank you, God, that you provide a map for traveling the pathway of grieving. You give abundant margin for me to bring all my deepest and darkest feelings to you. You are always available to hear my cries. You never tire of reminding me of what you have done for me. Help me to travel the grieving pathway at your pace. Not running ahead or giving up but moving ever forward to great healing that can only come from you. AMEN

For over thirty years, Anthea Kotlan has served as a women’s ministry leader in the church and community. She has a passion for discipleship and encouraging women to walk confidently in their God-given calling. She designs women’s retreats, teaches Bible studies, writes, and enjoys speaking at events. Recently, she began serving on a church plant team in Conroe, Texas with her husband, a bi-vocational priest. Every chance she gets, she spends time laughing with her two adult daughters or snuggling her two grandchildren. Check out Anthea’s blog for weekly soul-tending devotionals from the Psalms. 

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I wish you well.


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