Prepare to Listen. Light a candle of hope for the world even as you read these words of seeming hopelessness.
Prayerfully Read Lamentations 3:40-51
40 Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD.
41 Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands to God in heaven.
42 We have transgressed and rebelled, and you have not forgiven.
43 You have wrapped yourself with anger and pursued us, killing without pity;
44 you have wrapped yourself with a cloud so that no prayer can pass through.
45 You have made us filth and rubbish among the peoples.
46 All our enemies have opened their mouths against us;
47 panic and pitfall have come upon us, devastation and destruction.
48 My eyes flow with rivers of tears because of the destruction of my people.
49 My eyes will flow without ceasing, without respite,
50 until the LORD from heaven looks down and sees.
51 My eyes cause me grief at the fate of all the young women in my city.
My gut response to these stanzas was: don’t like them, can’t share them. I mean, it makes God look so uncaring and distant. I’m struggling with that thought myself and want to be assured that it’s not true, that God does care!
What was your gut response?
These aren’t the words we usually use to speak about God. We stick with positive ones, such as in 3:22ff that proclaim God’s faithfulness and ever new mercies. Reread these four stanzas, this time keeping in mind that they are not claiming truths about God, but truths about the pray-er’s, perhaps your own, experience in that moment. How does that change your gut response?
Jeremiah seems to suggest that Judah was destroyed because of its sin. If that were true, the solution, claims this poet would be confession, lifting up our hearts and not merely our hands to the Lord. But it seems Judah did this, but God has not forgiven! Remember, this isn’t a truth about God but about what it felt like for the suffering people. He felt like, despite their humble confession, God refused to forgive!
But there’s worse to be said, writes the poet. God seemed to be wrapped in anger, killing without pity. It felt like God was wrapped in an impenetrable cloud and no prayers are getting through. Sometimes during this pandemic, I too have wondered about God. Can I dare tell God what I think?
What can we do but weep rivers of tears with Jeremiah who watched people dying around him? He wept over the fate of the young women, probably being repeatedly raped by Babylonian soldiers. So too we weep rivers of tears for the women stuck in lockdown with abusive spouses; for the children forced daily to live with abusive parents; for families struggling to relieve their thirst and hunger; for the sick and dying who can’t get tested or into hospitals; for the US President’s response that is self-centred and lacking compassion. I wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It will come, as we’ll see in tomorrow’s reading (3:55-60).
What do you weep for today? The practice of mourning softens our hearts so that we’re more willing to reach out in compassion to those in need. Allow the lamenter of Lamentations weeping over the downfall of Jerusalem, be your guide and affirm your hope and faith in God’s faithfulness.
Respond to Jesus
Some days, Jesus, waiting in quietness for your salvation is so hard, especially on those days when I feel you’re wrapped in a cloud and my prayers don’t get through; when it feels like you’re wrapped in anger, killing without pity. Give me strength to honestly lament and lead me to the Rock that is higher than I. Amen.