I want to pick up from my Sunday sermon and continue to reflect for a moment on the theme of lamenting. It seems so topical for us at the moment as we have now been living with Covid for just about a year and we are all feeling the strain of that. On a global and national level we are all feeling the strain of it. With that in mind, it makes good sense to turn for a moment to the book of Lamentations. The book was written by the prophet Jeremiah. It is one of the saddest books in the whole bible. Many would compare it with the book of Job, but Job is sad because of a personal tragedy, whereas in Lamentations Jeremiah is weeping over a national catastrophe. As you read the book you can almost see the tears dropping onto the page and making the ink run. Here’s a man weeping his heart out. It was written as Jeremiah saw the deserted city of Jerusalem. He knew too the pain of his people – prior to the destruction of the Temple and the city the people had been under a terrible siege. The people were desperate and appalling things were going on. Finally, they had been exiled to Babylon. Everything looked so bleak.
But God had not abandoned his people. Wherever they went he was there with them. It is this knowledge of God’s constant love and care for his people that leads Jeremiah to say what he says in Lamentations 3:22-24: ‘Because of the Lord’s great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him’.
What beautiful, heart-felt and faith-affirming words these are. They have been words of profound encouragement for believers over the centuries. Whatever we are going through we are not consumed because the Lord is walking with us. Every morning and throughout each day we can know afresh glimpses and signs and examples of his unfailing compassion and his faithfulness towards us. As we cry out to him, he will reach out and respond to us. Jeremiah wrote these words to strengthen the whole people of Israel. As Christians, we strengthen each other by sharing these verses and encouraging each other to find fresh hope and comfort within them.
On Sunday we had two songs by Matt Redman played during our service. One was his own updated version of Horatio Spafford’s hymn ‘It is well with my soul’ and the other was his song written some years ago called ‘Blessed be your name’. That was written after he and his wife had been through the trauma of a miscarriage. Matt Redman also lost his own father to suicide when he was young. He knows what it is to lament and his songs have been a huge blessing to others in helping us to lament together corporately as we sing and worship. As a song-writer, though, he never leaves us in that place of sorrow and he points us to look at the Lord afresh and to know his goodness and grace. Exactly what Jeremiah does here in Lamentations with those final words, ‘I say to myself, the Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’. He really is our portion and so as we wait for the easing of restrictions and the ending of Covid – frustrating and difficult as that might be – we also wait on the Lord. He will never fail us and he will bring us through.
In lamenting we find that our relationship with the Lord deepens and so does our trust. These things are of immeasurable benefit to us. I imagine that we will emerge from this pandemic pretty shattered but also oddly stronger. We will have many and varied losses to grieve – of people, of jobs, of time, of education, of plans, of things – but our trust in the Lord and his care for us will be deeper. And, of course, there will come a time when lament isn’t needed any more. This season Of Lent leads us to mourn over sin and suffering. As we do so it helps us to appreciate ever more what Christ has done for us. ‘There will be sunshine after rain’ to quote a Dire Straits song. For the Christian believer eternal glory will supersede any present pain. That’s good news!
Every Blessing James