April 8, 2020
You, Lord, reign forever;
your throne endures from generation to generation.
Why do you always forget us?
Why do you forsake us so long
Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return;
renew our days as of old
unless you have utterly rejected us
and are angry with us beyond measure.
As we finish our reflections on the book of Lamentations, these closing verses offer a reminder of the foundations of lament. Here, in the middle of Holy Week, we can also look to the example of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane from Matthew 26:
38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Here we see Jesus, overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Yet he prays for God’s will to be done. That’s lament. Lament says that we are miserable. Lament says that we do not understand. Lament says that we feel rejected. But Lament also says that God is still in control. It says that God is able to restore and renew, and we choose to submit to his will.
Taken in two separate pieces, we are very good at praying these prayers. When everything is coming up roses, we easily declare that God is in control and working all things for good. When things are going poorly, we grieve and groan. But the true power of lament is when these two prayers live side by side. In the midst of your distress, can you say both of those things? Can you say, “I am heartbroken” and “God is in control” in the same breath? My prayer for you today is that if you are hurting, you find a way to say both halves of lament.