As we approach Easter and remember the death and resurrection of Christ, let us consider the biblical practice of lament. Lament is the expression of grief and mourning and is practised by God’s people throughout the Bible in Lamentations, the Psalms, Job and many of the prophetic books of the Bible.
Even Jesus cried out to the Father in despair. In Matthew 27:46, Jesus, while on the cross uttered, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” in his native language. Jesus recognized that his agony had been precisely detailed in the words of Psalm 22:1, 16-18 (ESV):
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”
From evening on good Friday to morning on Easter Sunday, the world remained in a state of chaos and despair. Can you imagine being one of the disciples in this moment? All their hopes for a messiah were crushed and they had no one to look to for guidance, hope or meaning. Their world was dark.
Pete Greig, author of ‘God on Mute’ says, “The lament passages of holy scripture are there to sit with us in our pain. Though it appears all trace of God’s presence has left, these passages mysteriously convey to us the truth that God is not simply trying to rush us out of our pain but rather first and foremost be with us in it. He is present with us – experiencing our pain, carrying our sorrows, listening to our rage, understanding our doubts.”
Many of us are experiencing grief and confusion because of the state of our world right now. The crucifixion reminds us that Christ is present with us in our suffering. The verses of lamentations reassure us that our experiences have been articulated (and validated) repeatedly in scripture.
Greig continues: “In our fear of unknowing we leapfrog Holy Saturday and rush the resurrection. We race disconcerted to make meaning and find beauty where there simply is none. Yet.”
Jesus knew that Lazarus would rise again. He wept anyway because hope is cheap without lament. Pain needs to be expressed so that it can be transformed. We must acknowledge that we live in a broken world. Recognizing our brokenness is part of the journey to restoration and redemption.
Here is where the ‘yet’ comes in. We have hope because we know how the story ends. Christ rose victorious over death and destruction and he is renewing all things unto himself. So have hope, but don’t deny your pain. Pay attention to it while looking forward to the coming resurrection.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:6-11 ESV).
What a privilege it is to have hope in suffering. As we experience the devastating effects of this pandemic may we focus on Christ with thankfulness for who he is and what he’s done for us on the cross. May we be bold in sharing the truth of the gospel to those around us and those around the world, so they too can realize the sovereign God of the universe is carrying their sorrows and offering hope in the midst of their pain. Please pray for the many people who will hear the gospel this Easter, through relationships and through the ministry of TWR Canada, that they would hear the truth, humble themselves to the truth and receive the gift of salvation through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.