Started in on Lamentations this morning. Not exactly your “pick me up” book. Jerusalem, what’s left of her, is empty. Once the apple of God’s eye, she now is the subject of scorn for the nations. The princess has become a slave. The vineyard has been overcome by weeds. The glory has departed.
I’m not really well-versed in the finer points of lament, but it’s not too hard to pick up what the writer is laying down. At least in this opening portion, it comes down to his closing words in the first chapter.
“. . . for my groans are many, and my heart is faint.” (Lamentations 1:22b ESV)
Who hasn’t been there? Not that all our trials and testings can compare in magnitude to a razed city and an entire people taken captive into exile. But who hasn’t gone through something that evokes that heavy chest which almost forces your breath out of you? Deep sighs being the audible indicator of a sick heart.
But what grabs me as I hover over this lament is that, rather than being self-consuming, it is heaven revealing. It is sorrow with a divine perspective.
The lamenter knows why the city is empty. He is well aware of why her “friends” and her “lovers” have deserted her. Well aware of why she is afflicted.
. . . the LORD has afflicted her for the multitude of her transgressions . . . (Lamentations 1:5 ESV)
The writer of this song in a minor key sees beyond the rubble and connects it with Him who is righteous. The One who “is in the right” (1:18) is in sight. The songwriter lifts his dirge to the One who hears the cry of His people. He confesses the sin of his people and cries out for mercy from his enemies to the LORD who is “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6). The songwriter laments with a divine perspective.
Now, I’m not in any way suggesting that all groaning and sickness of heart is tied to rebellion and transgression. That’s the context for the lament I’m reading this morning, but there are many other circumstances which allow us to sing along with the songwriter’s sad song.
What I am thinking about though is that all our sorrow can be processed through the filter of a divine perspective. That we are not left to lament alone. That we are not left to try to “catch our breath” without some heavenly help. It’s why Paul could write,
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed . . . So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. (2Corinthians 4:8-9, 16 ESV)
Groanings may be many. The heart might be faint. The outer nature might feel like barren Zion after the Babylonian horde has passed through. But when we sorrow under the covering of God’s faithful presence and provision, we do not lose heart. In fact, when we look up our inner nature is renewed.
Because of grace . . . for His glory.