March 2, 2020
1 Jerusalem, once so full of people,
is now deserted.
She who was once great among the nations
now sits alone like a widow.
Once the queen of all the earth,
she is now a slave.
2 She sobs through the night;
tears stream down her cheeks.
Among all her lovers,
there is no one left to comfort her.
All her friends have betrayed her
and become her enemies.
We’ve started a teaching series on the book of Lamentations. It’s a book that presents some serious challenges, not the least of which is its relentless sorrow and what feels like a distinct lack of hope.
Sadness is not an emotion we spend much time reflecting on—often because we want to just get through it, or forget it, or pretend it never happened. But that perspective on sadness and grief is a relatively new construct. Historically, sadness was given much more space to be felt and embodied. In some cultures, mourning a death used to (and in some cases still does) impact everything from what you wore, to what you ate, to what activities you participated in. This could go on for months or years—sometimes for the rest of a person’s life. What if we gave sadness the same time and attention that we give joy? Think of all of the words we can use to describe a certain type of joy. Exhilaration. Anticipation. Giddiness. Elation. Jubilance. They spring to mind almost immediately. Synonyms of sorrow take longer to form. There are almost as many, but we don’t spend as much time thinking about them. Yet Isaiah 53, a chapter that prophesied the coming of Christ, says:
He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
If Christ was a man of sorrow, shouldn’t we see that as an invitation to also embrace that aspect of our life? Is it possible that parts of God can only be found in hardship and heartache? That’s the premise we will operate under for the next several weeks. We will look to see God in our anguish. The opening verses of Lamentations describe a particular type of mourning. It’s the sadness that comes from seeing something beautiful reduced to nothing. A queen becomes a slave. Friends become enemies. A woman surrounded by lovers now sits alone. This form of loss is particularly painful, and for many, familiar. Does your marriage feel like it’s only a shell of what it used to be? Has a friendship turned sour? Did your dream job turn into a nightmare? Do you look in the mirror and mourn the effects of age? These losses hurt in a way that’s different from tragedy or catastrophe. The pain doesn’t come with a sudden bang. It’s a slow, tiring hurt that can drag you to an almost complete stop.
Have you taken time to mourn a loss like that? Have you spoken to God about how much you miss what was once bright and joyful? That’s different from asking God to fix it or take it away. Talk to God about how you feel and what you wish could be as it once was.