[Continued from yesterday’s post.]
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 [ESV]
Sometimes these words can seem almost trite. We know things won’t always go well. We know there will be winning seasons and losing streaks. We know disease will intrude and raises will come. We know we’ll get the girl, or lose the guy. We might even sigh about the ebb and flow of the ups and downs of life. But in the core of our being we don’t always know how to transform the knowledge in our heads to a sense of peace in our hearts.
It starts with lament. David Swanson writes:
The Bible provides a word that helps us imagine faithfulness when the tragic moments begin piling up. Lament is what the Israelites do in exile as they wonder about God’s presence. Lament is what the people do when they listen to Ezra read God’s forgotten law. Lament is Nehemiah weeping and fasting upon hearing about Jerusalem’s disgrace. Lament is Mordecai’s sackcloth and ashes, his loud and bitter wailing in response to Haman’s plan for genocide (CT Pastors, Learning to Lament).
When we lament we acknowledge that we live in a fallen world, and that the fallen creation rubs up against us. It scratches, abrazes, wounds, and rubs our souls raw. The world conspires against everything good. The devil seeks to destroy us. Our own flesh is compromised and we become our own worst enemy. To lament is to acknowledge that.
Lament, more importantly, is also an acknowledgement that there is someone to whom we may turn in times of sorrow, distress, and trouble. Lament is an exercise of honest faith. Our God does not turn us aside when we call on him. God not only allows for this, but promises that he will not despise “a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:4), not blessed are those who slap on a happy face and say praise the Lord no matter what happens, in some false they’ll-never-hurt-me bravado.
Some say that the Christian faith perfectly applied brings pure happiness, success, and an end to all troubles. This is folly and the shoddy foundation of a life destined to implode, leaving behind the rubble of failure and doom. The Christian faith gives us someone to whom we can turn with confidence in the turmoil of despair. God does not despise us when we’re sad, he welcomes us. Jesus came for the sick and weak sinners.
When we were traveling across the western slope of the Rockies, I did not lament. I beat myself up. Better had I called out to God, O God, help me! Save me! Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. You are my only hope (cf. Psalm 39; 62; 109). Right now I should feel this way. I don’t want to. But that’s where I am. I need a Savior. I may wish I didn’t. But I do. That’s why Jesus came.
God’s faithfulness is a shield and buckler. Psalm 91:4
The Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3