Lament as a Tonic for SufferingJanuary 16, 2023 ● 25 min
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but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12).
How to Cope in Crisis and Chronic sadness?
A. My conviction: Christianity is true, rational, and pertinent to whole of life. See Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics; see especially, “The Problem of Evil” chapter
B. Yet there is evil, pain, suffering, and lament
C. But, we can smelt, squeeze, and sculpt meaning out of suffering through divine love
I. Lament: A Tonic for Suffering
A. A tonic, not a cure (in this life)
What is biblical lament?
1. The anguished cry of sorrow, grief, and often anger made before God and with hope of resolution. Lament is caused the loss of a something good or by the fear of the loss of a good thing, such as justice, health, or a loving relationship. One may lament over oneself, others, or the creation itself.
a. Negro spirituals, “Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child,” and the blues, “Motherless Children.”
b. Sixty Psalms of lament (6, 13, 22, 39, 88, 90, 137, etc.)
c. Book of Job: We are “born for trouble as the sparks fly upward” (5:7)
d. Ecclesiastes 9:11 (KJV)
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
2. Christ’s absolute suffering on the Cross for redemption: lament of all laments redeems the cosmos
a. “My God my God, why have you forsaken me”? (Matthew 27:46; from Psalm 22)
b. “Come lift up your sorrow and offer your pain. Come make a sacrifice of all your shame. There in your wilderness, he is waiting for you to worship with your wounds for he’s wounded, too.” Michael Card, from “The Hidden Face of God” recording (2006)
c. Jesus: “It is finished” Not finished for us, though—yet
d. Participating in Christ’s suffering through lament: Colossians 1:24
Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
Lightening the Load of Suffering
A. Let grief take its course: Said to a mother grieving the suicide of her 19-year-old son: “It’s been six weeks”
B. Let yourself and others weep; accept their tears; listen to their tears
You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in your bottle Are they not in your book? (Psalm 56:8; see Revelation 7:17).
C. Don’t give cheap answers; don’t try to read God’s mind in the whys of suffering
When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth—people getting no sleep day or night—then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17; see also Deuteronomy 29:29, Romans 11:33-36).
D. Don’t try to cheer people up out of season
Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day,
or like vinegar poured on a wound,
is one who sings songs to a heavy heart (Proverbs 25:20).
E. Don’t make promises you cannot fulfill; keep your word
It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it (Ecclesiastes 5:5).
F. Prayer as a way of life (Ephesians 6:10-19).
G. Remember that lament for the redeemed is not forever (Revelation 21-22)
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 2:1-4).
Reading on Lament
1. William J. Abraham, Among the Ashes. A philosopher laments the loss of his forty-two-year-old son.
2. Michael Card, A Sacred Sorrow: Reaching Out to God in the Lost Language of Lament. A biblical study of lament.
3. Douglas Groothuis, Walking through Twilight: A Wife’s Illness—A Philosopher’s Lament.
4. Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.
5. C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed. Memorable memoir of grief over his wife’s death.
6. Don Payne, Surviving the Unthinkable: Choosing to Live After Someone You Love Chooses to Die. A Denver Seminary theology professor laments the suicide of his brother.
7. Glenn Pemberton: Hurting with G
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