March 30, 2020

Lamentations 4:1-2

How the gold has lost its luster,

    the fine gold become dull!

The sacred gems are scattered

    at every street corner.

 

How the precious children of Zion,

    once worth their weight in gold,

are now considered as pots of clay,

    the work of a potter’s hands!

 

We’ve looked at many different aspects of lament over the past weeks. We’ve lamented loss, dealt with anger, and wrestled with feelings of despair. Today’s verses offer an entirely different type of sorrow, described as gold losing its luster. Have you ever had a romantic relationship go sour? Has a dream job ever turned out to be far less than you expected? Many of us have felt this type of pain. It’s unique because we experience not only the present pain of conflict or job stress, but also the pain of unfulfilled expectations. We expect gold to stay shiny. We expect romantic partners to make our hearts flutter. We expect children to bring us joy. We expect our hard work to be recognized. When those things don’t happen, the pain we feel is magnified by how good we had hoped it would be. Each fight aches even worse because it’s in contrast to the love we dreamed of. A missed promotion makes doing the same work as before feel unbearable. 

This type of pain should tell you that it is time to pause and reflect. Our tendencies are either to soldier on as our hope fades and our sorrow grows, or to jump ship and move on to the next shiny opportunity that catches our eye. But if you are feeling the pain of something good going bad, don’t simply act. Take stock of your sadness and see what is really there.

Notice in these verses that for all the examples given, their inherent value still exists, although in obscurity. The gold is still gold, even if it is dull. The sacred gems are still there, simply scattered. The children of Zion have only changed in the estimation of others, not in their actual quality. This can feel like small comfort, but it is comfort, nonetheless. If noticing our pain is the first step, this is the second. We can remember. In remembering, we can begin to see again what is good and valuable. Sometimes we can see how it can be restored.

Let me be clear: There are some situations beyond redemption. Toxic work environments do exist. Some relationships cannot be rescued. But if we are to err, we should err—even if only for a pause—on the side of looking again for promise. Most critically, we can only look for that promise if we first look at our pain. It can tell us not only what feels wrong now (My gold is dull!!) but also how we hoped it would be. In that contrast, we can invite God to come and either redeem what is valuable, or give us a path towards something new. I pray that wherever you are today, you take time to look at the pain of your loss, and ask God what can be redeemed or, if not redeemed, learned.

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