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Venting vs. Lamenting

What do you do with your pain? Do you deny it? Ignore it? Try to numb it? Do you dwell on it? Obsess about it? Tell everyone about it all the time?

While we were studying the book of Lamentations, my friend’s Bible study group discussed the differences between venting and lamenting.

The definition of venting is giving free expression to a strong emotion.

The biblical definition of lamenting is praying to express sorrow, pain, or confusion.

As a teen, I didn’t feel free to express my strong emotions, so I vented in my journals. It didn’t make anything easier or better, but at least it wasn’t kept all inside of me. It was poured out on paper. Venting helped me process and feel the emotions deeply.

Here’s a journal entry that I wrote when I was 16 years old. Listen to my venting:

I am just so unhappy and I don’t know why. My heart aches. I can’t stop crying. I cry for days nonstop. I try not to. Just everything hurts me. Simple things seem devastating. I want to be able to like myself again. This depression is slowly killing me. No one notices.

I’m sad and lonely. I have no one. No one loves me. Why should they? Why would I deserve anyone’s love?

Every day, I walk through life—unhappy. Every day, I don’t want to go on.

I’m so tired of this life, this routine, pretending to be happy, pretending to care. I am fully exhausted with all of this. I can’t go on much longer, something significant will break. My heart has been broken. My mind is damaged by these thoughts. I am barely here. I am weak—so weak.


We may be tempted to judge someone’s venting as dramatic or overly emotional or attention-seeking, but remember... the definition of venting is expressing a strong emotion. These emotions I was feeling as a teen were real. They were legitimate based on my experiences. Some of them were rooted in lies I was believing about myself and others, but those lies stemmed from my experiences as well. It made sense for me to feel the way I did.

And today, it makes sense for you to feel the way you do. Your emotions are valid. They matter. But what we do with these strong emotions matters even more!

As Christians, lamenting is how we run to God to process our grief. We sit with Him in our pain. We tell Him all about our confusion and seek His clarity.

God has used His Word to teach me how to lament, how to mourn and grieve with Him, how to run to Him with my deepest pains.

I have learned to lament…

Like Jeremiah:

The pain--

  • This is why I weep and my eyes overflow with tears. No one is near to comfort me, no one to restore my spirit. (Lamentations 1:16)

  • My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within; my heart is poured out on the ground… (Lamentations 2:11)

  • I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. (Lamentations 3:19-20)

The hope--

  • Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him. (Lamentations 3:21-25)

Like the psalmists:

The pain--

  • My tears have been my food day and night. (Psalm 42:3)

  • I say to God, my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:9-10)

  • All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments. (Psalm 73:14)

  • Will the Lord reject forever? Will He never show His favor again? Has His unfailing love vanished forever? Has His promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has He in anger withheld His compassion? (Psalm 77:7-9)

The hope--

  • My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember You. By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:8,11)

  • When I tried to understand all this, it troubled my deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God… (Psalm 73:16-17)

  • Then I thought, “To this I will appeal… I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember Your miracles of long ago. I will consider all Your works and meditate on Your mighty deeds." Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; You display Your power among the peoples. (Psalm 77:10-14)

Like Job:

The pain--

  • Why did I not perish at birth and die as I came from the womb? For sighing has become my daily food; my groans pour out like water. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil. (Job 3:11, 24-26)

  • If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas… (Job 6:2)

  • Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath; my eyes will never see happiness again. (Job 7:7)

  • I despise my life; I would not live forever. Let me alone, my days have no meaning. (Job 7:16)

  • I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul. (Job 10:1)

  • I am full of shame and drowned in my affliction. (Job 10:15)

The hope--

  • Your hands shaped me and made me. Will you now turn and destroy me? Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again? You gave me life and showed me kindness and in Your providence watched over my spirit. (Job 10:8-12)

  • To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are His. (Job 12:13)

  • I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God. I myself will see Him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27)

Like Habakkuk:

The pain--

  • How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to You, “Violence!” but you do not save? (Habakkuk 1:1)

The hope--

  • Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer.; He enables me to tread on the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

As I have studied God's Word and learned from examples like these, I learned to lament and bring my sorrow, pain, and confusion to God. Here’s an entry from my prayer journal when I was battling postpartum depression:

Dear Father,

I can’t do this. I want to run. I want to die. I want to leave. I am ruining these precious souls, and I can’t control myself. The task is too hard.

Please just let them sleep. Please just let them sleep. Please just let them sleep. I need time alone in the morning. I need naptime without fighting. I am so desperate, angry. I am a horrible mom. I just can’t deal anymore. I want to give up. I want to give up. I am done trying. I am so exhausted from trying. I have no strength left.

Remind me of who YOU are. You are the God who sees me. You are the God who heals. You sanctify me in this trial. You are God with me. You are my Shepherd leading me to green pastures to rest. I shall not want. I lack nothing. You make me lie down. You restore my soul. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me. You fill my cup. You are with me. Your rod and Your staff comfort me. (Psalm 23)

You know every bird and insect. Surely, You know me. (Psalm 50:11)

I sacrifice thanks to You, God. Thank You for this life, even in my complaining, thank You! Forgive me. I call on You in my day of trouble. Deliver me. I will honor You. (Psalm 50:14-15)

Why my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God! (Psalm 42:5)

I desire to do Your will. Your law is within my heart. I will speak of Your faithfulness and Your saving help. (Psalm 40:8, 10)

My sins have overtaken me and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs on my head and my heart fails within me. (Psalm 40:12)


I seek You. I will rejoice and be glad in You. I long for Your saving help. The LORD is great! (Psalm 40:16)

You are my help and my deliverer. You are my God. Do not delay. (Psalm 40:17)

Save me from this despair and anger. Act quickly before I do any more damage. My sins are so numerous and horrendous. I am desperate for Your saving help.

Thank You for Your faithfulness. You are here, and You keep Your promises. Thank You for Your saving help. Thank You for Your Word speaking to me. Thank You for this love and encouragement.

Be my Shepherd. Provide for me today. Protect my heart.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Do you hear the difference between my journal as a teen and my prayer journal as an adult? Do you hear the hope I received as I spoke truth to God, as I remembered His character?

The emotions I was expressing in both entries are similar. I felt hopeless and sad and alone. My shame was overwhelming me. The difference lies in what I did with those strong emotions.

After lamenting, my circumstances didn’t change, but the here and now is not the entire picture! It is not the full reality of what is happening. We believe that God is at work. We believe there is a spiritual realm that we cannot see.

We trust that God is good, faithful, and present with us. He has proven it in His Word.

Our hope is securely rooted in God, who He is, and what He has done for us.

Author Mark Vroegop lists four elements that may be included in laments:

  1. address to God

  2. description of complaint

  3. request for God’s help

  4. expression of trust in God

Vroegop says, “the beautiful thing that lament does is it opens our voice to talk to God again about the things we’re feeling and the concerns of our soul.”

Venting focuses on the pain. It focuses on how horrible our circumstances are and how we don’t see a way out of it.

Lamenting acknowledges the pain. We don’t shy away from how horrible things are or how much things hurt. We don’t deny, ignore, or attempt to numb it. Lamenting fully feels it and surrenders it to God, thinking, This pain is horrendous, but God is still good, and I trust Him with it.

Even when you don't feel like you trust God, even when you can't see Him working or don't understand what He's doing, even when you feel distant from Him, going to Him in prayer demonstrates your faith. Lamenting demonstrates your faith.

hands pushed together in prayer with words "Venting=focusing on your pain, Lamenting=shifting your focus to God." Lamenting demonstrates our faith.

So today, lament to God.

  1. Address Him for who He is, the God of all comfort, your good Father, Almighty God, the God who heals, the God who provides.

  2. Pour out your heart to Him. Freely express your pain.

  3. Ask God for His help.

  4. Trust God. Recall His faithfulness. Speak His truth back to Him.

God can be trusted with all of your strong emotions. He loves you in all your pain.

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