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S (Scripture): Lamentations 1
20 Pay attention, Lord, for I am in trouble. My stomach is churning; my heart is pounding inside me because I am so bitter. In the streets the sword kills; in the house it is like death.
21 People heard that I was groaning, that I had no comforter. All my enemies heard about my distress; they were thrilled that you had done this. Bring the day you have announced so they become like me!
22 Let all their evil come before you. Then injure them like you’ve injured me because of all my wrong acts; my groans are many, my heart is sick.
O (Observation): A godly prayer would certainly include a plea for suffering to be removed from one’s self. However, to ask God to visit that suffering on someone else??? Is that appropriate? No, but is that real? Yes!
Let’s be honest: the people of God have seen their country literally and spiritually torn apart. The author wishes for God to bring hope to their country and their people – the promised hope. And yet at the same time, they wish for their enemies to suffer the same the same things they suffered as God’s people.
Not holy, but honest.
The book of Lamentations is a real inside look at the hearts and minds of God’s people in the wake of the downfall of the Judah and Israel. Their bitterness shows through, especially in this verse.
And even though today’s scripture uses a singular, personal pronoun “I,” this pronoun is being used as sort of a universal “I,” as in it functions more practically as a national suffering and bemoaning.
A (Application): I am so thankful that the history of God’s people has not been sterilized / scrubbed clean. The Bible includes the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Our nation right now is in a really tough spot. Protests, natural disasters, a President that speaks divisive words (rather than creating spaces so the protestors concerns can be addressed so we can all listen), systemic racism, a government all twisted inside itself so that nothing fruitful is coming from Congress, a church shooting in Antioch, and more.
I have such a heavy heart this day from all of these issues I just mentioned. Even though these issues don’t compare to the burden that people of color in this country have to deal with.
But I still cry out this day: “God, where the heck are you?!?!?”
Now…pause…breathe…take a few seconds to center yourself. We don’t erase our cries to God, neither the cry of those of Lamentations, or even my own cry. We let the cry, the yelling, the cursing, the suffering exist…and we lift it or shout it to God. And we realize that God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Maybe…no, definitely, we will find a way forward.
Crews will respond to nature disasters (as will many of you readers). Just this Saturday I was driving back from Atlanta to Murfreesboro, and I saw a whole line of power company trucks waving Canadian flags. I realized that this crew was sent from Ontario, Canada, to Florida to help with the recovery of power throughout that state, in the wake of Hurricane Irma! This is awesome!
And Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR)…we have boots on the ground in Texas and Florida…and they will be there for quite some time. LDR is also helping with recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which devastated much of Peurto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the US Virgin Islands, and other parts of the Caribbean. This recovery effort is awesome!
Last Tuesday, our congregation hosted another Theology on Tap session – this time regarding Race Relations. We had a very constructive conversation! And we will continue the conversation over the next several months. This is awesome!
So…let us cry out to God when we suffer or those around us suffer. Let us walk alongside those who wish to be heard, or those who have no voice. God can handle our short-sighted cries and lamentations. And God can also bring redemption and transformation directly and also through our hands.
May we find hope in the midst of our lamentations.
P (Prayer): Lord, give us hope. Hear our cries. Amen.
Click here to learn more about Luther Disaster Response (including how to help directly with recovery efforts, or making donations).