How Lament is Different than Cursing God

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Blessing and cursing are polar opposites. Blessing flows out of generosity of spirit that desires good for another, while cursing is inspired by evil intent. Blessing builds up; cursing tears down. Blessing invites others to draw near; cursing pushes them away. Blessing invokes peace; cursing inflicts division. Blessing frees another to new possibilities; cursing seeks to shackle the future. Blessing is proactive; cursing is reactive.

This is a curse.

A curse is an offensive gesture from a defensive position. When we’ve been hurt or feel threatened, our frustration and fear often coalesce around anger until we find ourselves dwelling on, even wishing for, the destruction or demotion of the one who hurt us. Curses shoot out of our mouths like poisoned darts—they’re words meant to inflict pain. They sting the moment they hit their mark, and the resulting wound festers in the future as the words work their way under the skin of the heart. The pins and needles stuck in voodoo dolls are just a physical representation of what curses are meant to do at the psychic and emotional level.

Cursing is like offering someone a cup of poisoned water from a polluted well. James says that if we use our tongues to bless God, we can’t turn around and in the next breath curse a person made in God’s image. We can’t sing praises on Sunday and then belittle our coworkers on Monday. “No one can tame the tongue;” observes James, “it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?” (James 3:8-11, nasb, emphasis added).

God never allows his people to curse; he encourages them to lament. God doesn’t expect us to bottle up our hurt and our fear, suppressing it unnaturally; he encourages us to turn toward him and pour out our hearts.

This is lament.

We see David, the shepherd anointed king of Israel, lamenting again and again in the Psalms.[i]

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Psalm 13:1-2, niv

This is the groaning of lament. Lamentation is a way to express our frustration, our discouragement, our terror, and our desire for justice to God, laying all our angst and confusion at his feet, begging him to judge justly and right the wrongs that cause suffering. Lamentation trusts that God hears, sees, is in control, and will respond in his own time. Cursing, on the other hand, is attempting to take matters into our own hands, exercising verbal judgment by damning or defaming another. Cursing gives voice to fear, while lamentation is an expression of faith. God invites us to reflect his character by blessing, but he doesn’t extend the authority to judge by allowing us to curse.

Taken from Given: the Forgotten Meaning and Practice of Blessing by Tina Boesch. © 2019 NavPress. Used with permission by NavPress.

If you appreciate what you’ve read about cursing vs. lamenting, you’ll want to read more about how to live given, restoring blessing to its intended, daily practice.

[i] See, for instance, Psalm 6, 13, 35, 42, 43, 55.

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