The Gift of God in the Book of Lamentations

The presence of Lamentations in the canon points us to the kindness and graciousness of our God. The simple fact that you can open up a Bible and find this book there testifies of a God who deeply cares about us. It is God’s voice toward us and our voice toward him all at the same time. It is an inspired account of an anguished people voicing their pain to God. As we listen closely we discern the voice of God in their cries and laments. This is God’s word to us about how God would have us communicate with him. It is a gracious invitation to engage with a gracious God in the midst of horrific circumstances. It’s divine inspiration and placement in the canon is a gift. We are the richer for its solace and voice. Where would we be without such a companion in our darkness? What would we do without such rigorous expressions and metaphors to articulate our deepest emotions?

This book gives us voice. It instructs our voice. It emboldens our voice. It testifies to us that though we lose everything we never lose our voice. All else may be stripped away from Israel, but they still have their voice to cry, petition, and lament. This he will never take away. He has bound himself to us by a covenant that guarantees his ear. He will hear. He must hear. He has bound himself to do so. Thus when all else is removed—possessions, vocations, health, friends, family, and freedom—one thing remains: voice. We see this in Israel, the slave in Egypt. We discern this in the shrill cry of Job. We recognize this in the exiled people of God. The loss of all things except voice is manifest most clearly in a carpenter outside the Jerusalem wall. Stripped of everything but his voice. The cry of forsakenness is a bold refusal of silence.

Do you see the gift of God in authoring such a book?  He knows our frame. He knows our limits. He knows our needs. He instructs us in the way of pain and suffering. He invites us into a bold dialogue with himself and he gives us the words to speak. Pain is inevitable in this earthly sojourn. The pathway through pain to peace and rest is not inevitable. Bitterness, callousness, faithlessness, and despair are very real ending points for our experience of pain. Lamentations is a canonical declaration of God’s commitment to walk with us through the pain. This is a commitment I am thankful to be on the other end of and a gift that I am very glad to receive.

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7 comments

  1. Maybe one of your best posts yet especially in light of where you are at. The point about Christ and the overall biblical idea is articulated very clearly.

  2. Easier to write about it then practice it. I am thinking there is a link between silence and despair. When our suffering renders us silent before God we have lost even the hope of being heard by him. Lament is actually an expression of hope in the midst of dark times. It clings to the promise that God will hear us. I wish I were better at this.

    1. I would even think it is more than just hope, that the Lament is the actual processes by which the restoration of our soul begins to hope and even at some level silence if grounded on right doctrine is the lament of our soul longing to be restored, to be made happy again.

      1. Drew thats a good point. Never thought of silence that way, but it makes sense. I think of this text from Psalm 77:4. “You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak.” So, am I hearing you say that even silence is a potential expression of faith? Maybe you could elaborate further on this—it would be helpful to hear your thoughts.

        I do agree with you about the lament as the process of restoring joy to our hearts. It is that necessary journey that Walter Brueggemann charts as a movement from orientation through disorientation into reorientation.

  3. Again as i think it through, not only is it the expression of faith as well as the evidence of faith but is faith itself. Faith is unseen, the unseen has an unheard factor. After all Amy and I have been through I think most Christian lack the frame work by which lament fits into the orientation of their theological framework of God. Lament feels like distrust where in fact (like we have talked before) lament is like you are saying the very evidence of Trust. Just as we talk about the fruit we are to bear as a follower of Christ (evidence of faith-love, joy, giving, being nice to people, going to church) lament is the fruit and faith itself. Thus the lack of lament in the church surfaces the deep things of God (“no we don’t talk about that, just read your bible every day or pray”). Thus my weakness is not (like lewis says) that I go to deep and deeply dwell on the things God is active in my life around, but that I don’t go deep enough and ponder enough the hardship in my life. We chalk it up to God’s sovereignty, when in fact that is not the meaning of the lament.

    1. Drew, I really appreciate the comment that faith is unseen and at times unheard. New thought for me. I hear you and agree about lament not being in our framework. You never know how detrimental that is to you until you find yourself in a dark pit. You know what I’m sayin? I have seen you and Amy walk through some stuff man and you have been a great example to me of engaging God in and through it. You make some other good points here as well. One I would be interested in tracking with you further is on the connection of the sovereignty of God and lament. Tell me your thoughts on how these two things relate.

  4. Often, I hear people say: God made this happen, or God wanted this to happen, when they are referring to some terrible tragedy such as the molestation of a child, or the shooting in Sandy Hook. I don’t agree with that. I think it’s wrong to accuse God of evil. Does He allow it? Of course. Why? I don’t know. Can we credit Him with tsunamis and hurricanes? Does He send those events that wipe out masses of humanity? They are called ‘acts of God’. I see those more as the effects of sin on the physical world. Maybe the effects of prince of the power of the air on the world. Can we be frustrated and angry with God over these things? I think so. And I think He understands that. We should not sin in our anger, but humans with limited understanding being angry over events like these is perfectly understandable to an omniscient God. Would you or I be offended if our small child cried and was upset with us for taking them to the doctor as they were experiencing the necessary pain of getting stitches for a deep cut?

    Tangent: A common thing I hear in church is that God actually did forsake Christ at the cross. I do not know of any supporting scripture for this, and I think it’s more likely that Christ fell out of communion with the Father as he took on sin and was then unable to detect what, up to that point, was a very familiar presence.

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