With each passing day that we find ourselves in the midst of this world-wide pandemic, the brokenness both within and around us has become certain and plain. For some of us, this may be the first time in our lives where we feel completely devoid of control. For others, it may be the most we’ve ever thought about death or the closest we’ve ever felt to it. For some it may be by far the nearest, most bitter taste of suffering and grief. Still for others, this period may be our deepest wrestling with the complexities of the human heart and the emotions that tumult our thoughts. The reality is that none of us right now are devoid of the aching language of an afflicted soul, crying out for relief and hope. The greater reality is that we have a Savior who has endured suffering and affliction to the point of death, even death upon a cross. A Savior identified as a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). A Savior familiar with the language of lament, inviting us to become familiar with this language as well.
Listen with me to the anguished heart of the psalmist in Psalm 22 - a psalm of lament predicting the sufferings of Jesus:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame” (22: 1-4).
The psalm quoted by our Lord Jesus as He hung upon the cross, as if it were His own, spoke candid, raw, unfiltered feelings before God. But these feelings were not bereaved of the character of God and His acts throughout history. Notice grief and affliction were not a position of silence but rather of coming to God, speaking out boldly with deep and honest expressions of the soul.
I am increasingly convinced that God is inviting His people, for such a time as this, to personally learn and engage in the language of lament. Webster’s Dictionary defines lament as, “to mourn aloud: wail” (intransitive verb). For the Christian, our lamentation is directed towards a person, God, whose desire is to intimately engage with us in the afflictions and suffering of day to day life. Our lament is not purely mourning before the Lord or crying out in hopeless pain and despair, it is an act of trust placed in God, knowing that He hears and cares about the cries of His people. Lament ushers us into a deeper position of trust before the Lord, recounting who He is - who He has always been to His people.
As we commemorate Good Friday today, uncomfortably aware of the stench of death within our cities and communities, may the hope of what lies ahead of us strengthen our own lamentations during this time, “…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). After reading that verse, I have to think that Jesus tasted joy in the midst of His suffering. Jesus had hope engulfed in His lament. He knew that on the other side of His suffering even that of being separated from the Father, as He endured God’s wrath poured out against our sin, the joy of restored relationship with us was worth His death upon a sinner’s cross. This joy gave Him strength to endure the trial.
We know that joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) who dwells in us, whose fruits we are called to walk in. If you have joy today, even in the midst of death surrounding us, don’t feel guilty, dear Christian. There is joy available for us, even in the midst of our suffering, for we know that God has a purpose in which He will use this evil to bring about good. He is already bringing many throughout the world to Himself, as a result of Covid-19. He is softening hearts and opening eyes and ears to consider what life is really about, what comes after death, what hope there is for us. We know that Jesus is the answer to those questions. We know that Good Friday, a day where hope seemed lost and death had won, was necessary for the celebration of life that would come on Resurrection Sunday! May we journey during this time of affliction near to our Risen Savior, even in the midst of lamentation. For we know that hope is found in Him.
Isaiah 53; Psalm 22; Lamentations 3