Over the next 5 weeks as we move through the season of Lent, we will be exploring the grace of God through the process of lament. Pain, grief, and loss are things we all will face at some point in our lives. It is the very nature of living in a world broken by sin. Thus, it is imperative that we have a proper theology for dealing with brokenness. Unfortunately, discussing lament and how to deal with difficulty biblically is not something that we often discuss. Because of that, we many times struggle with how to process our grief. Instead of looking to biblical answers for our questions, we generally either struggle with being angry at God, which can lead to bitterness and even loss of faith, or we try to deny our feelings and questions, which can lead to feelings of shame or dishonesty. God in His goodness wants something better for us. Remember, Jesus said that He came that we might have life and might have it more abundantly (Jn. 10:10). In His Grace, God has outlined how to deal with pain and grief His way—a way that brings healing, restoration, and a deeper relationship with God. He wants us to understand that it is in our darkest moments that we find a deeper understanding just who God is and how much He loves us. As C.S. Lewis once said, “God whispers in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
To guide us on our journey through lament, we will be using the book of Lamentations. This short book contains 5 chapters, each of which is a separate lament over the destruction of Jerusalem. In 586 B.C., after a two-year siege, the Babylonian army finally breached the walls of Jerusalem. What followed was nothing short of utter carnage, as the Babylonians unleashed two years of pent-up wrath on the people of Jerusalem. On August 14th of that year, the Babylonians completed the destruction of Jerusalem by razing the temple and burning the city to the ground. The glory of David and Solomon was gone. All that was left was a wasteland. As he surveyed the destruction, Jeremiah was inspired by the Holy Spirit to give voice to his grief in the form of the book of Lamentations. To this day, on the anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem, Jewish people around the world gather to read this book aloud in their synagogues. The Hebrew title of the book is ‘ekah, which is translated “how?”. And it will be this question with which we struggle throughout our study of Lamentations, because it is the biggest question we face as we walk through difficult days.
Lament, or the biblical pattern for dealing with sorrow, is a four-fold process. There is an address to God, a complaint, a request, and an expression of trust, or more simply turn, complain, ask, and trust*. In the first chapter of Lamentations, we see a prophet overwhelmed by grief. For forty years, Jeremiah has warned God’s people of the coming of God’s judgment. He is overwhelmed by the how of this moment. But chapter 1 concludes with Jeremiah turning to God in his grief. He acknowledges his pain is not the act of an unjust God, but rather the result of sin. This is where Godly grief begins—in acknowledging God’s goodness and justice in the midst of our grief, even when we don’t understand. As difficult as it may be, we must begin with an understanding that pain is the result of mankind’s rebellion, not God’s aloofness.
- Consider the difficult times in your life. What are some of the “how” questions with which you’ve had to wrestle?
- Review the C.S. Lewis quote above. Have you found his statement to be true? Why or why not?
- Read Jn. 10:10. Do you feel like Jesus’s statement was just for eternity, or do you believe that it applies to this life? Do you feel like you are experiencing an abundant life? Why or why not?
- Are their areas of unresolved grief in your life? Consider sharing your struggles with the group and praying through that grief with others.
*See, Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy by Mark Vroegop.