April 29, 2020

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?” (Ps. 13:1-2). 

Over one third (50 or so) of the psalms are lament. Lament frequently occurs in the Book of Job: “why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?” (Job 3:11). Prophets also cried out to God such as Jeremiah: “Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable?” (Jer. 15:18). The Book of Lamentation expresses the confusion and suffering felt after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Jesus himself lamented in the Garden of Gethsemane, crying out: “Abba, Father all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me!” (Mark 14:36). And in agony on the cross Jesus cried out words of Psalm 22: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”

Lament is a faithful prayer. Amidst global pandemic and the deep sufferings of the world, lament gives voice to the present reality that things are not right and we need God to heal us, save us, deliver us. In the past weeks we hear the rising cry: “How long will physical distancing continue?” “How long until the economy re-opens?” “How long until children return to school?” How long until we can come together physically for worship.. return to work…….?

Where do you hear “how long?” For what do you cry out to God:”How long O Lord, how long?” 

Something significant happens in the psalms of lament that is worth taking note. In psalms of lament a shift occurs. A transition unfolds. In the psalms we see how lament turns to praise. For example in Psalm 13: “but I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because God has dealt bountifully with me.” (vs 5-6).

Let us be bold in our prayers, bringing our struggles to God. We need space for lament. Some of us looked forward to graduation and prom. Others looked forward to milestone celebrations, birthday parties, travelling, a June wedding. Lament is real and lament is a faithful prayer. As Easter people we live with the hope of resurrection. Sitting in the darkness of Good Friday is also part of our spiritual journey. 

What are you missing the most these days of lock down? Who are you missing? What loss are you grieving deeply? Today as you offer your prayers, name before God the very depths of your heart, your pain, your questions, your fears, your grief. And when you have laid all bare, listen for the voice of God. Be attentive to how your prayer turns to praise for God’s steadfast love and goodness.

May God who receives our thanksgivings as well as lament, draw near to us as we draw near to God.

love and peace be yours,