With each passing day that we find ourselves amid a world plagued with suffering, the brokenness both within and around us becomes increasingly certain and plain. The reality is none of us right now are devoid of the aching language of an afflicted soul, searching for relief and hope. But there is a greater reality that we have a Savior who has endured suffering and affliction to the point of death, even death upon a cross. He is a Savior identified as a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief and pain, one who was despised and held at low esteem (See Isaiah 53:3). A Savior familiar with the language of lament, inviting us to become familiar with this language as well.
Listen to the anguished heart of the psalmist in Psalm 22:1-4 ─ 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.”
This psalm is quoted by Jesus as He hung upon the cross as if it were His own, candid, raw, unfiltered feelings before God. Notice grief and affliction were not a position of silence but rather of coming directly to God, speaking out boldly with deep and honest expressions of the distressed soul.
Is God inviting you, 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.” For the Christian, we must not forget that our lamentation is directed toward 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 for 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.
This Easter Weekend, as we commemorate Jesus’ death on the cross, may we become uncomfortably aware of the stench of death within our cities and communities. Let us enter into the needs around us, the injustices, the emotional grief and trauma, the aching hearts of sufferers in our midst, and be moved by compassion. May the hope of what lies ahead of us strengthen our lamentations by “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).
Jesus tasted joy amid His suffering. Jesus had hope engulfed in His lament. The joy of a restored relationship with us was worth His death upon a sinner’s cross, even if He had to bear being separated from the Father. He endured God’s wrath poured onto Him for our sin. But the joy of a restored relationship with us gave Him the strength to endure the trial. May we learn well how to practice joyful lament for ourselves but also those in our families, communities, country, and world.
Journey brother and sisters amid affliction and lament near to our Risen Savior. For we know that true hope is found in Him and that He has risen, just as He said!
Today’s Bible Reading: Isaiah 53; Psalm 22; Lamentations 3
By Nancy Martin