Capable?!

Matthew 27:51 

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 

The earth shook, the rocks split... 

“Lamentations?  I don’t think I’ve ever really read it, I sometimes wonder why it’s in the Bible at all” (p. 34).  This was one response Chris Wright received from a devout follower of Jesus.  She had just learned that Chris was composing an entire volume focused on the book of Lamentations.  As part of my sabbatical in the Fall of 2021, I embarked on a focus that you may well consider to be “odd.”  I immersed myself in this long forgotten book from the Hebrew Bible by reading the entirety of Dr. Wright’s work.  Why would I do such a strange thing?  Why was it a vital step in my life as a disciple?  What did I learn along the way?
 
Like so many in our world over the last two years, my life has included fresh experiences of loss and sadness.  The threefold tsunami of COVID, racial injustice, and political polarization has led to relational stress.  There have been times in which conflict between myself and others have left me with a broken and aching heart.  There have been times…many times…when I have wept at the loss of relationships and the severing of friendships.  By the Fall of ’21, it became clear to me that I was “stuck.”  I found myself in a dynamic in which I was unable to let go of my pain and sorrow.  I was unable to “let go and let God!”  Therefore, I concluded that it was time for a season of lament so that I might find healing and forward momentum in Jesus Christ.

Through my journey of dwelling in Lamentations, I learned about the practice of lament and the pathway toward healing it provides.  Here is a summary of highlights from my journey.

Theme #1: God Listens to Human Suffering—Our Suffering!
Rather than being distant and removed from the misery and hardship of the world, God allows the suffering to have their full say.  The author cries, “Is any suffering like my suffering?” (1:12).  Throughout Lamentations, God listens without interrupting to comfort or contest.  In fact, God says not a single word at any time throughout the book!  Instead, God is present as THE LISTENER.  This is—it seems—a reflection of God’s heart that we hear in Isaiah 63:9, “In all their distress, he (Yahweh) too was distressed.”  What a remarkable God we worship!

Theme #2: Lament as a Journey Through Suffering!
As I reflected on my inability to move forward in processing personal lament, I was challenged by an observation from Chris Wright.  “Lamentations keeps us moving on…unable to pause for too long on any of the scenes….There is a drive and rhythm.  This is a journey through grief, not wallowing in it” (p. 29).  There are words in Lamentations that seem to conclude that “the end of the world has come.”  For example, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD” (3:18).  However, this is not the end of the story.
 
Theme #3:  The God who is There!
As a remarkable article of poetry, the core of Lamentations is embedded in the literary middle of the text.  Verses 22-24 of chapter 3 are a call to resolute faith,
            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.
            I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
In the midst of the deepest lament, here is a call to bold faith.  I am impacted by the author’s self-talk, “I say to myself.”  The author of Lamentations knows that their experience is not the sole determinant of life.  Instead, God is incredibly capable—active, alive and speaking in the world.  Here is a pathway to release one’s lament and tears into the hands of a merciful and loving God!
-Pastor John Jacobi
David penned a number of lament prayers. As a spiritual practice we invite you to use his words to cry out in grief, sadness, and pain to the All Mighty LORD.
Praying Psalm 54
Surely God is my help;
    the Lord is the one who sustains me.
Let evil recoil on those who slander me;
    in your faithfulness destroy them.
Songs of lament. Music does connect to our souls.
“I was like a shipwreck out in the sea... winds were blowin’ right through me, no help to be found. Then God lifted up his hand and he delivered me again.” There isn't an instance in which the LORD is not capable. He can hear your sorrow in compassion, heal your grief in love, grow you in creativity while maintaining full authority over creation.
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5 Comments


Sheryl Saul - April 7th, 2022 at 2:56pm

Thank you for the blog about lament. It’s very insightful and helpful.

I have enjoyed the blogs and wish I had gotten into the habit of looking at them sooner.

Kristi Johnson - April 8th, 2022 at 9:38am

Thanks for the note. I'm glad you are enjoying them and I am hopeful that we can do more. -Kristi

John Jacobi - April 12th, 2022 at 3:31pm

I'm so glad that this was helpful! God is good!!

Bonnie O. - April 9th, 2022 at 10:31am

The concept of being "stuck" is perceptive. Being aware of being "stuck" means a person can change (become unstuck). Using the practice of lament to heal seems like an antidote to being overwhelmed by conditions that I may or may not be able to control. It's a tool I can acquire to keep moving forward in all aspects of my life, not just my spiritual life. I agree with Sheryl, this is insightful and helpful.

John Jacobi - April 12th, 2022 at 3:33pm

Thank you so much for reading and responding! I like the use of the term "tool" to describe lament. That's a helpful pathway forward.

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