Lamentations

When are you going to show up, God?

This devotional is written by Emma Jones. Subtitled-film lover and journalist 

Lamentations 5

Remember, Lord, what has happened to us; look, and see our disgrace. 2 Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners. 3 We have become fatherless, our mothers are widows. 4 We must buy the water we drink; our wood can be had only at a price. 5 Those who pursue us are at our heels; we are weary and find no rest. 6 We submitted to Egypt and Assyria to get enough bread. 7 Our ancestors sinned and are no more, and we bear their punishment. 8 Slaves rule over us, and there is no one to free us from their hands. 9 We get our bread at the risk of our lives because of the sword in the desert. 10 Our skin is hot as an oven, feverish from hunger. 11 Women have been violated in Zion, and virgins in the towns of Judah. 12 Princes have been hung up by their hands; elders are shown no respect. 13 Young men toil at the millstones; boys stagger under loads of wood. 14 The elders are gone from the city gate; the young men have stopped their music. 15 Joy is gone from our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning. 16 The crown has fallen from our head. Woe to us, for we have sinned! 17 Because of this our hearts are faint; because of these things our eyes grow dim 18 for Mount Zion, which lies desolate, with jackals prowling over it.

19 You, Lord, reign for ever; your throne endures from generation to generation. 20 Why do you always forget us? Why do you forsake us so long? 21 Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old 22 unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure.

Reflection

Zion has been devastated by war. The people have been degraded and traumatised in the most brutal way. They're ashamed of what they've become. They're also in deep despair that this is 'their new normal.'

I think many of us now identify with Lamentations in a way we'd never have done before. If not the visual imagery, then the desperation that pervades it - that things will never change for the better again.

When Jeremiah (probably its writer) says joy has gone, when he describes the loss of activities the city used to delight in - that really resonates with me. Our eyes are dim, he says. There's plenty of days when I bet many of us can't see a way out of our own "new normal." Or we may be suffering deeply with something else, unrelated to the pandemic, that just seems never-ending.

This is a full-on complaint of suffering addressed directly to God. There's accusation that He's forgotten them totally, acknowledgment that He didn't cause it ("woe to us, for we have sinned") and asking Him to show up and change the situation. Unless, Jeremiah qualifies, things are so bad that finally God's turned His back on them for good and this is how it now is - forever.

Lamentations was written right in the middle of suffering -without the perspective of hindsight. The end to their story had yet to be written.

We read it knowing that God's people were indeed restored. We also know that in Jesus, we have our final answer about God turning His back on us. That's never going to happen. We instead have a promise that He'll be present with us in every kind of trouble (John 16:33)

Today, if you want to talk honestly to God, even accuse Him, go right ahead. But when you're asking Him about showing up, remember that from our perspective, it's a when and not an if. For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "YES" in Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:20)


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