We love happy endings. In fact we will rewrite movies in order to make them happy and acceptable to everyone. But life is not always like that. In this temporal life we face trials and suffering.The Problem of Lamentations
The book of Lamentations is like that. We avoid the book – especially in “victory” theology. We have a tendency to think that all stories on earth should have happy endings, and we form our theology around that, our dogma and mantra, is all based on “What’s wrong with you if your story is not happy? – What have you done?”Sorrow is the drumbeat of the poem
We cannot escape the sadness of this poem. Sorrow and grief have struck this OT people. Sorrow, just like no happy ending, is simply not a popular topic today. But something we all face.
HOPE is the THIN, FINE, UNBREAKABLE THREAD that runs through Lamentations.
- Sorrow of Loss
Lamentations 1:1-3 - The poet laments the loss Israel has faced. She was once prosperous and blessed. Now she lies in ruins – she has lost everything.
Facing loss is devastating – and we can never undermine the feelings or grief of people facing loss.
Understanding the phases of loss is important:
• Shock and denial
- Sorrow of Regret
Lamentations 1:14-18 - Regret truly is a terrible burden. You can hear it in the voice of this poet. If only the people had listened, if only they had not chosen rebellion, if only…
“If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world” – Mercedes Lackey
When you live on this planet long enough, you, like the poet in Lamentations will at times say “If only…” Regret is something that plagues us because of our broken, sinful nature.
How to handle regret?
• Determine what your regret really is.
• Ask for forgiveness and make amends.
• Accept the circumstances.
• Deal with toxic relationships.
• Grieve for your regrets.
• Recognize what you have learned or gained.
• Write out a plan or agreement to avoid the same mistakes.
• Talking to a trusted friend or counsellor.
• If you are feeling guilt or regret because someone abused you or sexually assaulted you, realize that you are not to blame! But, make sure that you tell the police (and your parents if you're young) so that person who hurt you will be stopped from hurting you and other victims.
• Don't rehash the event over and over by continually telling others what happened. You could actually become "addicted" to the sympathy!
We will all at times feel the sorrow of regret. It is important to process this carefully so we don’t fall into the same trap. We have to work through the consequences, it is all part of the journey.
- Sorrow of no happy ending
Lamentations 5:15-22 - Lamentations is the sad ending of a chapter of God’s people – a sad Jewish story. And for many, many years there will be no happy ending. In fact many of the people born in and around the poet’s time would only experience sorrow in their lifetime. They will never see God’s promises become a reality in their lifetime on Planet Earth. For them, this temporal life would have no happy ending.
Some people will encounter life like that. How can we assume to escape suffering when our Lord Jesus was a man of suffering?
1 Peter 4:12-13
We may not like the thought, but suffering is not a new concept. It is right through the Bible. And the
people that the poet speaks about in Lamentations are not the only ones who did not experience the sort of happy ending they were hoping for: Hebrews 11:35-40.
Suffering interweaves the lives of those who follow Christ. For some this suffering will not always end HAPPY on this planet. Cliché answers, cheap comfort do not cut it. This is where the community of Christ makes its great contribution –that together we encourage one another, we love one another, we refuse to allow foul heresies that condemn people who are suffering in our midst
There is hope that the poet is complaining and lamenting to God – he believes, without a shadow of doubt, that God is, that God hears, and that despite his darkest moment, that God is still trustworthy.What oxygen is to the lungs, such is hope to the meaning of life. —Emil Brunner, Swiss theologian (1889–1966)
- Hope that causes us to stand in the darkest moments.
- Hope that comes quietly when so many voices of torment rage.
- Hope that seems so frail, and yet continuously presents as the strongest of all.
We cannot predict our future, we cannot foolproof our circumstances or even our decisions. We cannot rewrite our stories. But we do, as followers of Christ, have a thin, fragile, blood stained thread running through our spiritual DNA – this thread becomes unbreakable in the face of the darkest valley – the thread of Hope."...healthy people experience a marred joy. For them, life is lived in the minor key, but with an eager anticipation of the day when the Master Musician will strike up the eternal anthem in the major key. Healthy people are sad because they know things are not now as they should be, yet their disappointment with the world is not expressed in anger. They long for a better day, confident that it will come but groaning until it does.” - Larry Crabb - Understanding people
The Good News is that our story is an Eternal Story, a story with an ultimate provision of a happy ending. Because we hope in a God who left behind an empty tomb. Those who negate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, negate the centrality of the Gospel, negate the hope we have – no resurrection – no Eternal Story – no hope.
A bodily, resurrected Saviour is the thread that runs through our spiritual DNA called hope. He was the first fruit, He broke the cords of death and grief. He made the way – so that we – his followers – could have hope and a future.
1 Cor. 15:12-22
The poet of Lamentation saw redemption a long way off, we see it closer because Jesus has already now inaugurated the Kingdom. Our hope is this, no matter how our story ends here – it is not the end. The End has already been written – and in the end we live more than we ever lived before, we know no more sickness, suffering, or separation. In the End we see Him as He is – and there is no more reason for LAMENT.Sample Discussion Questions
- Discuss the impact of suffering on individuals and community
- Discuss how the community of Christ helps/hinders this process
- Discuss the resurrection – Recommended reading: Surprised by Hope (N.T. Wright)