Saturday, September 9, 2017
A Time to Lament
A Time to Lament
Cry aloud to the Lord!
O wall of daughter Zion!
Let tears stream down like a torrent
day and night!
Give yourself no rest,
your eyes no respite!
Arise, cry out in the night,
at the beginning of the watches!
Pour out your heart like water
before the presence of the Lord!
Lift your hands to him
for the lives of your children,
who faint for hunger
at the head of every street.
Look, O Lord, and consider!
To whom have you done this?
Should women eat their offspring,
the children they have borne?
Should priest and prophet be killed
in the sanctuary of the Lord?
The young and the old are lying
on the ground in the streets;
my young women and my young men
have fallen by the sword;
in the day of your anger you have killed them,
slaughtering without mercy.
The people of Jerusalem are instructed to cry out to God. They have tried far too long to make it on their own and it has simply brought them destruction. Now the prophet weeps for the city and invites them into this lament. Everything that they have known has been destroyed and they are overcome with grief.
God instructs them to cry out in their pain and to let the tears flow. They are to share from their hearts the depth of their pain and suffering. The mothers of Jerusalem are invited to intercede on behalf of their children, for they are starving.
The people respond to God and in this we see what they are dealing with. Life in Jerusalem has become unbearable. The enemies have attacked them until nothing is left but rubble. In a rhetorical response they describe the horrors of trying to survive in Jerusalem. There is not enough food -- and therefore they asked God, should mothers have to eat their own children? This statement is horrific, and is meant to be. It is an expression of the utter hopelessness of the people as they look around at the destruction. They are crying out to God regarding the devastation and now they bring another question before God. Is this so awful that even God's holy people, the priests might be killed in God's very sanctuary?
The pain of the people culminates by blaming God and charging that God is the one who has slaughtered without mercy. God quietly and patiently listens to their cries, for this is what God has encouraged them to do. While the people had been warned long before that there would be consequences of their infidelity, God doesn't point a finger at this time. Instead, the people are invited into a lament, a way to cope with the pain which they are suffering.
Far too often we think we have to keep a stiff upper lip in the midst of trauma if we are a "good" follower of Christ. The reality is that life will bring us pain and suffering. We live in a fallen world and we see the results every single day. Horrific storms and wildfires, devastating illness, accidents and death touch people's lives nearly every single day. These can take us to a place where we cannot even begin to describe our pain. That's when we begin to use over the top language for what we are experiencing. "Hey God, don't you know how bad it is? Are you wanting us to eat our own children?" Of course that is NOT what God wants. God wants the people to cry out to him, and is patient and willing to listen to the hyperbole because God knows that lament is like a healing balm for the people.
In the midst of our pain we are encouraged to cry out day and night. It's okay...God will listen. We are to intercede for those who are suffering. Be willing to pray through the night hours when your mind won't stop thinking about all that is happening. Bring the needs before God and then don't be afraid to express what you are feeling! God is able to take our anger, frustration and hyperbole! God would rather receive all of that, than nothing. Our silent refusal to turn toward God in our pain results in open, gaping wounds, that will not heal.
I don't understand, nor can I explain the suffering in our world today. There are times when I need to cry out to God in anger and frustration. There is a time to lament and today may be the day that we need to enter that space.
Lord, hear our cries. Amen.