Prepare to Listen. Light a candle of hope for the world. Take a few deep breaths. As you exhale pray: Lord, have mercy on us.
Prayerfully Read Lamentations 3:1-9
1 I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath;
2 he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light;
3 against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long.
4 He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones;
5 he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation;
6 he has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago.
7 He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me;
8 though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer;
9 he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked.
Life has gone from bad to worse for our poet of Lamentations and he blames God. If today you’re living in a lockdown that has been extended, you can sympathize with this pray-er. Despite the occasional encouraging claims that experts or politicians are getting a grip on this virus, we continue to live a lifestyle that’s far removed from what we once experienced. As the lockdown with its restrictions continues, as more people die, as forecasters warn this can go on for months, it begins to take its toll. Sustaining a resilient faith gets harder and prayer seems almost hopeless when God appears to remain silent.
For many, it feels as if God has brought them into darkness without any light. Some, like Jeremiah, the poet, feel walled about by God with no escape. They begin wondering whether God has shut out their prayers for help. Instead of leading them out of this crisis, God seems to have blocked their way with hewn stones and made their paths crooked; they feel like they’re making no progress. If you’re one of those people, you understand and identify with the poet’s lament in these verses.
Once again, using graphic poetic language, the poet tells truths about himself and not truths about God. We read an honest description of how he feels during the agonizing suffering of a nation destroyed by the enemy. The words pour out of him in this lament to his God. He blames God for the situation and for how he feels about it. This is an honest confession rooted in a solid belief that God is big enough to handle whatever is thrown at him.
Be assured today that God is big enough to handle what we think or feel or say today. We have permission [think grace] to tell God the truth, even the truth about our uncertainty of God’s love for us and his presence with us. Blaming God, doesn’t hurt God but it does help us find healing and truth.
When we feel walled about with no escape, all we can do is lament and wait quietly for the Lord’s salvation.
What struck you in this lament today? What are you learning about how to grieve and mourn the suffering caused by this pandemic? If this lament doesn’t describe you today, lament with those who feel there is no escape and that God has shut out their prayers. Pray, not only for them, but also instead of them, that is, pray as if you were them.
Respond to Jesus
God who sometimes has us walled about with no escape, who sometimes shuts out our prayers, to you I pour out my complaint. Clear the road of its hewn stones, make the paths straight so we all can find healing and wholeness sooner rather than later. Amen.