Biblical lament is hard to handle. Lament is hard to handle. When we decided to practice lament as a way to hope for Advent, the idea resonated with me but I don’t know if I knew how hard the practicing would be. I’m finding all kinds of reason to avoid the difficulty. They come in internal and external narratives. Inside, I am very aware of the difficulty and I prefer to avoid the pain. Outside, Christmas is a happy time to turn on all the jolly. We definitely need a little Christmas, but we are working toward a deeper Christmas, a narrower way — a way that gives us less chance to fake it — a way that yields more real and robust hope and is more real with the situation we are all in together. I hope it “works.” The Lord is near. May we know it.
Here are some unfiltered, hopefully unfake reactions to the Biblical laments on the daily prayer this week. I hope they evoke your own conversations.
Is that allowed? (Me and Jeremiah)
“Why is my pain unending
and my wound grievous and incurable?
You are to me like a deceptive brook,
like a spring that fails.” — from Jeremiah 15
Me: Jeremiah, are you allowed to talk to God like that?
Jeremiah: It’s poetry. You’re telling me you never felt like that?
Jeremiah: Well, I’ve felt like that. I’ve felt like that a lot.
Me: But aren’t you, I don’t know, like, insulting God?
Jeremiah: Better to insult God than to lie to God, I say. You think God doesn’t already know?!
Mental Gymnastics (Me and Jesus)
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.” — from Psalm 22
Me: Jesus, you’re God, God can’t forsake you. That means you would be forsaking yourself.
Jesus: Here we go with the mental gymnastics.
Me: You are in the Father and the Father is in you.
Jesus: And yet I said what I was feeling, so…
Me: But why did you say it if it can’t be true?
Jesus: What are you running from?
Me: Huh? Why do you ask?
Jesus: I died so you could feel forsaken and not have to hide from my Father. Adam, why are you staying in the bushes.
Jesus: By the way, did you read to the end of David’s psalm?
David: They never do.
Adam: They never do.
Me: Whoa, where did you guys come from?
Jesus: I always said my Father was a God of the living, didn’t I?
Why so mad? (Me and Habakkuk)
“I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.” — from Habakkuk 3
Me: Habakkuk, Are you angry?
Habakkuk: Hell yes!
Me: You should probably tone it down a little. Your anger is scary and it doesn’t sound very Christian.
Habakkuk: Excuse me?
Me: … Um, well, I know you’re in the Bible and all but I don’t think you should be so angry. God loves those people invading you too.
Habakkuk: That’s what you’re going to do to me? Do you hear me talking about decay in my bones and my trembling legs? This is some scary stuff, here. What do you do when you’re feeling like that? Say nothing?
Me: Um … yeah. I usually say nothing.
So what? (Me and Amos)
Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy
on the remnant of Joseph. — from Amos 5
Me; Amos, are you implying that God is not with us as we say God is?
Amos: Sure doesn’t look like it.
Me: But God is our God. We love God.
Amos: God’s son said if you love him you will keep his commandments.
Me: God’s love is unconditional.
Amos: So what?
Me: So God loves us no matter what.
Me: And that’s it.
Me: That’s not it?
DOES God make everything better, though? (Me and Jeremiah again)
“I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.” — from Lamentations 3
Me: Jeremiah, you should probably forget all that negativity.
Jeremiah: What’s that now?
Me: The affliction, wandering, bitterness, gall. Just let it go.
Jeremiah: How could I do that?
Me: You just said how. The Lord’s great love, compassion that never fails, gotta stay positive.
Jeremiah: I don’t understand.
Me: God makes everything better.
Jeremiah: Oh really?
The Best I Can Do (Me and Isaiah)
“Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.
Your hands are full of blood!” — from Isaiah 1
Me: God, why do you have to be like that?
Me: We worked really hard on those festivals. They were for you.
God: Your life together is not a kindergarten craft project. I made it clear what I wanted from you, and you gave me this?! Don’t tell me that was for me.
Me: But, but, it was for you. We made it.
God: And I made you. Is unmaking you the only thing I can do?
Me: This is the best we can do, take it, please.
I Drench My Couch with Tears (Me and David)
“I am worn out from my groaning.
All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.” — from Psalm 6
Me: David, maybe you shouldn’t have so many enemies.
David: That would be nice.
Me: Don’t you think it has anything to do with you?
Me: Everything to do with you?
Me: Isn’t it all your fault?
Me: It’s all my fault.
David: I drench my couch with tears.