What Do You Lament?

There’s a word nobody uses anymore.  Lament.  It’s a word that is in the process of fading into our collective memory, but we still maintain some understanding of its meaning.  We’ve replaced it with other words:  regret, rue, bemoan (although those last two don’t see much play either).

One person defined lament as “the act of regret.”  As in, it is the way that regret looks on a person’s face.  It is the way regret looks on their bodies.  In the days of old, lament was physical.  Wailing out loud, dropping to hands and knees, crying, howling, bawling, covering oneself with ashes as one sits in an ash pit. Poets wrote songs of lament.  Everybody knew you were lamenting.

Today I read a headline about Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.  If you know me, you know that I’m not much into politics.  I just don’t have the stomach for it.  But when I saw Biden and Sanders, there was a little twinge in my heart that longed for those simple days when the headlines were only about the Democratic primaries.  Remember that?

We haven’t seen “normal news” in weeks now and although I was always annoyed with it at the time, I found myself longing for some good old debates about immigration and socialism and health care.  I found myself craving news of the newest “Winter Blast” to hit the east coast.  I found myself yearning for some salacious scandal about another high-ranking uppity-up.

I was lamenting this new and interminable news cycle.  COVID-19.  Over and over and over again.  I am lamenting the newest case of COVID-19 in Indian Valley.  It seems there is more to lament every morning.

Lamenting, of course, is not new to us.  2500 years ago, Israel lamented.  The Book of Lamentations tells about Israel’s lament of the Babylonian captivity, a period of 70 years when the people of Israel were taken into exile from their homeland.  It doesn’t take long to hear our own laments in the voices of Israel.  The opening verse is hauntingly familiar in these Corona-Days.

Lamentations 1:1
              [1] How lonely sits the city
that was full of people!
How like a widow has she become,
she who was great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
has become a slave. (ESV)

I find myself crying in lament over things that I took for granted.  News about other things, stocked grocery store shelves, coffee with friends.  And I can hear my cries in the cries of the people of Israel.

Lamentations 1:7a & 16
[7] Jerusalem remembers
in the days of her affliction and wandering
all the precious things
that were hers from days of old….
[16] “For these things I weep;
my eyes flow with tears;
for a comforter is far from me,
one to revive my spirit;
my children are desolate,
for the enemy has prevailed.” (ESV)

And in my lament, I ask the question that a lot of us have asked…. Why is God allowing the world to go through this?

I will not pretend to be a prophet here, and I dare not speak for God, but the story of Israel should serve as a warning.  That is, after all, why we have the history of Israel in our Bibles.  So we can learn from them.

I am not the first to ask, “Is this God’s judgement on His People?”  Our current culture has no stomach for such a question.  I barely have a stomach to ask it.

But we must.

If you know the story of the Babylonian Captivity, you know that God allowed Babylon to take over Israel because of Israel’s sin.  Jeremiah prophesied about the exile in Jeremiah 20-22.  And it doesn’t take long for the people of Israel to look inward and realize it for themselves.

Lamentations 1:18a
              [18] “The LORD is in the right,
for I have rebelled against his word;

I will not pronounce the judgement of God on this world.  That’s above my pay grade.  But God says to Israel through Jeremiah: ‘Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. So which path are we choosing? 

Have you “rebelled against His Word?” Are we a people who have created our own religion and not been true to the Christianity of the Bible?  Are we more in tune with our favorite politician and political agenda than we are with Jesus?  Have we neglected justice and mercy?  Have we kept our lives selfishly instead of giving them out freely? Have we picked up our cross to follow Jesus?

People have speculated a lot about the “judgement of God.” I don’t know about all that, but I think it helpful to constantly reevaluate our lives and make sure we have our feet firmly planted on the way of life.

If we are to lament, let us lament the ways we have neglected to take God seriously.

Let us lament the ways we have not trusted God.

Let us lament the ways we have forgotten the deep and steadfast love that He has for his people.

The book of Lamentations comes to a final and decisive point in Chapter 3.  Perhaps these verses can serve as the meditation of our hearts for this Holy Week.

Lamentations 3:19–24
               [19] Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
[20] My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
[21] But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
[22] The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
[23] they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
[24] “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.” (ESV)

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope…”  Even though there are new things to lament every morning, there is also new mercy from our God every morning.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Blessings,

Pastor Paul

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Joan Larson says:

    Thanks for this Paul. Sobering and encouraging. God bless you my brother.

    Like

    1. Paul Bernard says:

      Blessings Joan! Still praying you’re safe and sound! 🙂

      Like

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