Wednesday Weekly – June 10, 2020

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

By Pastor Taylor Sexton

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. 

Lamentations 2:18-19, NRSV

Have you ever experienced terrible suffering or a deep hurt that caused your heart to cry out to God, “How long God?”, or “Why is this happening God?”. Throughout the past days, weeks, and months I have found myself crying out to God with similar questions. 

One of the gifts that God has given us to cope with our suffering is lament. A lament is an outward expression of our suffering and grief that can take many forms including a prayer, a song, or crying out. The gift of lament invites us to sit in our suffering in communion with God and seek and ask for His intercession. We live in a society and culture that seeks to move past suffering as quickly as possible. The church is similar in that we spend most of our time focusing on celebrating the triumph of Jesus and very little time on the suffering that came before Jesus’ resurrection. Lament is countercultural in that it invites us to stay in our suffering.

One of the more obscure books of the Bible is the book of Lamentations. What is found in the words of this book are the words of a people overcome with pain, sorrow, and suffering. The words of a people that ring true for many across our country and world today. The book is organized according to the five chapters, or “laments” of the book, with several chapters devoted to each lament. Chapter 1 mourns the death of the city. Chapter 2 struggles with what it means that all of this has come about by the providence of God. Chapter 3 which is three times as long as the other chapters forms a climax to the lament and calls us into deep identification with the suffering. Chapter 4 reminds us of the hollowness of all human achievements in the eyes of God. Chapter 5 concludes with a corporate lament that looks to God for answers even when their don’t seem to be any answers. I wonder if you might identify with any of these broad themes of this book? 

In the book of Lamentations we find two important reasons we must take the time to lament. The first is that Lament calls us into deeper relationship with God. To lament to God is to share your deepest hurts with God knowing that you are not alone in your suffering. When you think about your relationships with friends and family, you know that there are only a select few that you are willing to share your pain and struggles with. Why just a select few? Because there are few people we trust enough to understand and care enough to share our hearts with. When we lament to God, we are trusting God more fully with our suffering and questioning hearts and therefor forming a deeper level of relationship with Him. Lament calls us into deeper relationship with God.

The second reason we must take time to lament is that it calls us to examine the injustices that caused the suffering that is being lamented. This is especially true when we lament with other communities who historically have, and continue to experience injustices and suffering that you may likely never experience. In his book, ‘Prophetic Lament’ Dr. Soong Chan Rah puts it this way, “Lament recognizes the struggles of life and cries out for justice against existing injustices. The status quo is not to be celebrated but instead must be challenged.” When we make room in our lives for both personal and communal lament we make room for the voices of the unheard and oppressed among us. To lament in this way allows us to be led by God to seek justice for the oppressed by first, hearing their cries and second by challenging the status quo that led to their oppression.

As followers of God we must balance praise and celebration with Lament. When we engage with both we engage the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Reflection Questions:
Where might Lament fit into your faith journey?
What are you struggling with that you need to spend time lamenting
Whose voice(s) might you give space to lament alongside?