Some scholars of lament talk about how the earliest one emerged from the ground, as the murdered Abel’s blood cried out to God (Genesis 4). But I believe lament began in the Garden of Eden when the juice of sin’s apple dripped down Eve and Adam’s chins. Lament started when sin entered and marred God’s very good world.
Though we know that God is always good, life doesn’t always feel that way. In fact, all biblical lamenters from Job to Jeremiah, from David to Tamar to Jesus, are responding to a sensation of God’s absence. They lament, as we do, when God’s shalom—his peace, blessing, well-being, wholeness, relational-justice, and Kingdom-come—seem to have disappeared. Ultimately, all laments are reactions to the absence of God’s shalom.
Usually a source of great encouragement and hope, this very good aspect of God’s character can sometimes cause our faith, in times of grief and loss, to feel fragile and tenuous. These suffering seasons can make us question why God is not doing what he is supposed to do. Why isn’t God being who he’s revealed himself to be—a Creator of beauty; a Supplier of light; a Bringer of order and wholeness, peace, and goodness?
What do we do when we keenly sense the absence of God’s hand, the lack of his shalom? How do we respond to another senseless death? Another month with an empty womb? Another week wondering if we’ll ever have a healthy, loving relationship? Another failure at work? Another sickness? Another heartache? Another no? Another financial stressor? Another hurting child? Another victimized woman? Another national disaster? Another day of injustice?
That’s when we have to learn to lean into our lament muscles, to speak the weight of these sad times, to declare to God the absence of his shalom, and remind him of the promises of his wholeness and newness. Lament will not make the sadness go away, but it will strengthen your faith for the long-haul.
1. Have you ever struggled to see God’s hand in the middle of your own suffering season? With recent headlines of racial injustice, political unrest, division and so may ills in our world, where do you wrestle to see or experience shalom?
2. In your own life, where do you long to see the peace of God rest upon you? Where is your soul groaning in the chaos of suffering, pain, and death?
3. How can naming where we long to see God’s shalom help strengthen our faith? Why does recognizing where it is absent matter?
Lord, in the marred places of this world that are broken by sin and loss, I long to see your peace. In a world where every day, a new headline causes anger, despair and grief, I need to know your shalom more than ever. Bring wholeness in the chaos and shattered places of our world. And through it all, strengthen my faith and my resolve to stand for justice. Amen.
A Practice: Service
While it can be easy to get caught in a cycle of despair when it comes to all the ways in which God’s shalom seems to be missing here on earth, we must remember that God restores peace through his people. Consider what breaks your heart in this moment: racial injustice, human trafficking, the plight of refugees and immigrants, homelessness, food insecurity or something else? Take some time to research different groups and organizations in your community doing something to bring the healing and redemptive peace of God to people and start serving with your time and resources.
We’d love to hear from you and encourage one another!
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